Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

Expectations vs Life As We Know It

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Ever since Caroline was born, I have dreamed of the day I get to give her an American Girl doll. If you were a little girl at any point in the 90’s, you probably understand (My husband completely does not understand. “Don’t be disappointed if she doesn’t love these dolls as much as you do,” he said to me. HAHA AS IF.) In those days, they were made by The Pleasant Company and were completely unlike any other toy I had ever seen. They were beautiful. They had the most amazing clothes. They all had tiny tea sets or picnic baskets or ice cream parlors. And everything cost one million dollars. Or at least it felt like it did.

When I was 7 or 8 my parents and grandparents teamed up to make my sister and I American Girl dolls. They bought blonde 18-inch baby dolls, purchased a few tiny accessories that couldn’t be easily replicated, and then hand-made everything else we needed for our own Kirstens. They did the braids. They made beds with tiny mattresses and quilts. And my grandmother sewed me a child-sized version of Kirsten’s pink checked dress because there was nothing in the world I wanted more than to be a Swedish pioneer girl, even if that meant my best friend might die of cholera. I still remember finding our boxes with the dolls under our Christmas tree.

Eventually, I got a “real” Samantha doll and several of her outfits. I treasured her until the day I accidentally pulled her leg off trying to get her into a pair of tights, then I gently put her away and thought “some day I’ll send her to the doll hospital”. I still have all of it, both the Kirsten and the Samantha and the clothes and accessories and the bed and the box. It’s been in Caroline’s closet for years. So I decided THIS year, when she turned 6, would be the year of the American Girl. I would stop hiding the catalogs when they came (because of course I get the catalog) and we would look through and talk about how pretty everything was. I would buy her a doll, then ask for my family to sponsor a gift card so we could go to the store and do some dream shopping. We could get tea and ice cream in the American Girl Cafe where your doll gets a special seat and her own cup and everything would be so pink and so sparkly and she would look back on this birthday as the best birthday of her childhood.

But I had a baby 3 months ago, who I can’t really leave for long enough to do a girl’s trip to Boston. So I needed to bring my baby with me. But I didn’t want a crying baby to disrupt our trip so I talked E into bringing everyone so he could watch the boys while Caroline and I did our special birthday stuff and then Finn would be close enough to nurse if he needed. In my head, it was a great plan.

In reality, it was a terrible plan because there was no plan. We left late. No one ate anything. We ended up with all of us standing in the middle of the American Girl store while Linc threw a tantrum, the hungry baby cried, Evan leaned against things because he was bored and I wondered how I could have even thought this was a good idea. Caroline picked out a couple things and we left. No tea, no magical mother-daughter time, no wandering around for an hour looking at every tiny detail for the dolls.

By the time we got home, I felt like I had genuinely ruined Caroline’s birthday. She would never look back on the day she got her first American Girl doll and think about how magical it was.

But the truth is 6-year-olds don’t internalize everything the way adults do. Caroline was so excited to play with her doll and to dress her up in all her new clothes she barely noticed how grumpy I was. So I pulled myself together and asked her if she wanted to run some errands with me, one-on-one. “Yes! A girl date! I love girl dates!” she said. We went to Target for diapers and toothpaste. We wandered around for an hour with our Starbucks (hot cocoa and a cake pop for her, the hugest peppermint mocha frapp ever for me), looking at Christmas decorations, checking out the stuff in the dollar spot, and picking up small presents she could give her brothers for Christmas. She brought her American Girl doll and they rode in the cart together, singing a made up song and telling every person who smiled at her that it was her birthday.

I have always struggled with keeping my expectations in the realm of reality and adjusting when things didn’t work out exactly as I had imagined. Going with the flow is not my specialty. Enjoying the moment if the moment isn’t the moment I had planned.

I’m working on it.

 

 

 

 

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Then Someone Hands You A Baby

Friday, November 18th, 2016

A lot of people told me that once you have three kids, adding any more is basically no big deal. You’re already outnumbered and have been practicing zone defense for a while. You probably already drive a minivan. You’re used to multi-tasking while being perpetually tired. The bigger ones can help with the smaller ones.

Although all of those circumstances are true for me, going from 3 to 4 has not been easy. At all. I’m getting my ass kicked a little bit. There’s a Jim Gaffigan bit where he talks about having five kids: “Imagine you’re drowning. Then someone hands you a baby.” I feel like four kids might be the point where I’m still treading water but seriously wondering why the shore is so, so far away.

When I went from one to two, Evan was still a toddler with no commitments. If everyone was tired and wanted to sleep in, we all slept in. When he napped, she napped, and then I could nap. He ate basically nothing but goldfish crackers and cups of milk. We owned 243% fewer toys that could be spread out over the entire house. It was still hard, because taking care of kids is hard, but it wasn’t daunting. By the time I went from two to three, both Evan and Caroline were in school, so although I had to get them up and out the door every day once that was done I just had one newborn to keep alive which I could do entirely from the couch. Linc and I could handle errands or chores or work thanks to babywearing and an infant who started sleeping 8+ hours a night around 6 weeks.

Now I have both big kids who have to be dressed and fed and packed and put on the bus; a toddler who wakes up too early, is trying to give up his nap, needs to be fed a constant stream of pb&j sandwiches; and then I also have a helpless baby who isn’t much of a fan of sleeping.

Being a stay at home mom has always been a weird mix of always having way too much to do and long, boring periods of nothing. There is always something or someone who needs to be cleaned, so my work is never really done. There is so much laundry it feels almost comical – how can we own so many things that constantly need to be washed?! It’s so much mindless work. I can’t trust Linc alone with Finn for very long, so I’m not taking as many showers as I probably should be. (I don’t think he’d hurt him on purpose, but sometimes he gets the urge to just SQUEEZE HIS HEAD BECAUSE HE’S SOOOOO CUTE and doesn’t know that’s not a good idea.) I am currently serving as a 24 hour buffet for the baby, so having to feed everyone else too seems ridiculous. Can’t they all just feed themselves with food that magically appears in our kitchen? I used to love cooking, now it’s tedious. The level of being touched-out has reached new heights – Finn is a very cuddly baby, especially at 2 am, but Linc is also a very cuddly toddler. There are So. Many. Diapers.

I know in my head that this is all super temporary. We missed a lot of our favorite October stuff this year because I was too tired to wrangle everyone out of the house, but there will be 18 more Octobers where I have at least one child at home to do fun fall things with me. Right now I need to choose the less stressful option, maybe let myself be more lazy than I’m usually comfortable with, perhaps do just a little less for the holidays so I don’t end up freaking out completely. I’m hoping my friends and family can grant me some grace for not being as thoughtful and timely with their gifts and thank you notes and baked goods and holiday cards.

One day, in a future I can’t quite imagine yet, having four children will be totally normal for me. It won’t take me 30 minutes to get everyone settled just so I can go do laundry for 5 minutes. I won’t constantly run out of food because I forget how much 6 people eat. I will sleep more than 3 hours in a row and it might even be in my bed instead of on the couch. There’s even a chance I will go to Target and won’t lose ANY of my kids. For now, I will keep my head above water however I can and not pretend I’m doing it very well.

I can, however, occasionally force them into photos.

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Finnegan’s Fresh 48

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Fresh 48 sessions are my favorite kind of photo sessions, whether it’s my own baby or someone else’s. These are the rest of my pictures of Baby Finn from our time in the hospital. Well, our first time in the hospital. We had to go back to spend some time under the lights for his bilirubin levels, which wasn’t fun for anyone. But now we are home and can finally start settling in.

I would apologize for the number of photos in this post, but I’ve been writing this blog for 8 years now. I’m pretty sure I’ve already scared away everyone on the internet who DOESN’T want to see 60 photos of babies.

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Parenting in Public Is About 75% Nodding And Smiling

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

When you are in a public or semi-public space with your child/ren, people are going to talk to you about those children. And when strangers talk to you in public, they have a tendency to say some really stupid things. Try to remember that 99.99999% of the time they are just talking to you because you are there and their mouths are capable of forming words. I am an expert at having people talk to me because I haven’t yet learned the art of making absolutely no eye contact. Also, my children like strangers (I’m pretty sure they were switched at birth. All of them. Individually.)  So when Grandma Grabbyhands starts petting Caroline’s hair, instead of screaming “STOP TOUCHING ME STRANGE LADY”, Caroline insists on chatting about how she’s four and a half and loves horses and goes to school and one time on the bus her friend Michael threw up right on the floor.

Here is a brief list of things strangers might say to you in public that make you do the slow double blink. Remember, none of these things are personal. They would probably say them to a brick wall if the wall appeared to be listening:

  • Calling your boy a girl or your girl a boy. Your beautiful little girl could be wearing a pink, sparkled, ruffled gown with high heels and full make-up, her long curly hair braided and tied in bows and holding a giant flashing sign that says “I AM A GIRL”…and some lady at the grocery store is still going to say “He’s so sweet, what’s his name?” I promise this is not what is going to send your kids to therapy, so just smile a nod and say “Matilda Jane”. Then you can laugh and point as she struggles to comprehend why you would name your son Matilda. Or maybe don’t laugh and point, just stick with the smiling and nodding.
  • Saying “Wow, you sure have your hands full!” You probably, literally, do not. Most parents I know cannot parent without at least one free hand so we have found a whole list of ways to keep them available: babywearing, carts, strollers, leashes, whatever. This is just stranger-talk for “I see you have some small children in your vicinity”. Non-responses to this comment include: “Yep, children are a blessing”, “I sure do!”, “Really, it’s not so bad” or the perennial favorite: JAZZ HANDS while you nod and smile.
  • Making completely arbitrary comments over your child’s physical attributes that are probably wrong. Someone looks at your child who is in the 3rd percentile for height and says “She’s so tall!” Or they see your 99th percentile in the grocery store and say “What a little peanut!”. These are just words people are saying because they want to make a comment. They might as well  say “She is wearing blue!” or “Your baby has feet!” Unless you are at a medical doctor during a medical doctor appointment and it’s the medical doctor who looks at your very small child and says “What a chub!”, do not react. Nod and smile.
  • Asking you if the baby is sleeping through the night. THIS IS A TRICK QUESTION. They do not care if your baby is sleeping through the night. What they want to do is tell you about their baby or their cousin’s baby or their hairdresser’s nephew’s mailman’s baby who either a) started sleeping through the night at 4 days old, b) still doesn’t sleep through the night at 10 years old, or c) refused to take this stranger’s advice and now their baby is broken. Do not waste your time forming a truthful and accurate answer. They are not listening. Just said “Mostly!” and then nod and smile during what is sure to be a fascinating story.
  • Giving you ridiculous or outdated advice. Again, unless it’s your pediatrician telling you a little Jack Daniels is the perfect cure for teething pain, nod and then smile and then nod some more to disguise the fact that your eyeballs just rolled out of your head. (If it is your pediatrician, may I gently suggest you look for a new one?) These people will insist that they raised children who have survived to adulthood, which means you should do everything they did or your children will diiiiiiiie.

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I know it can be really really hard to simply nod and smile all the time. When the people doing these things are inescapable – because you are trapped next to them on a bus or because you live with them – it is incredibly frustrating. But I promise you, 90% of the time they are not being malicious, they are just talking because at some point human beings evolved the ability to speak and they are afraid if they don’t use that ability as much as possible they will lose it.

Nod and smile. Nod and smile.

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Several Truths And One Big Lie About Mother’s Day

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

I did not have an excellent Mother’s Day. I’m not saying that to make my family feel bad or shame anyone. I’m saying that because there’s a pretty good chance YOU didn’t have an excellent Mother’s Day either and I want you to know you’re not alone. Those perfect, smiling, happy families on Instagram and Twitter probably didn’t have flawless Mother’s Days either. They might have had a very nice day. A spectacular day. But it was not perfect – perfect is the lie. Kids – even kids big enough to understand the concept of Mother’s Day – don’t stop being kids just because it’s the second Sunday in May. Not once has saying “But it’s Mother’s Day!!” to a tantruming child solved the problem. They do not suddenly stop being tired or hungry or frustrated and pull a bouquet of flowers out from behind their back and say “Oh dear mother, I had simply forgotten! Shall I fetch you a coffee or a glass of wine?” If that is your life, Mother’s Day or not, I hate you.

The problem as I see it is that Mother’s Day is supposed to be Special and things that are supposed to be Special just lead to disappointment. That is why women become bridezillas about their One Special  Wedding Day and freak out that every single second doesn’t go according to plan. The pressure of that ONE DAY is just too much. Mother’s Day is the ONE DAY a year we are supposed to be indulged and pampered and appreciated above ALL the other days. Sleeping in and breakfast in bed and champagne brunch and a family picnic and a manicure and a relaxing nap and a romantic dinner date and a thoughtful gift and a homemade card and flowers and a bottle of wine. If you family really loves you, they will do all of that. Except no, they won’t. And even if you don’t really need them to…even if you try really really hard to keep your expectations super low…even if you say “I will be happy if all I get is a card the kids made at school”…it’s hard to stare into the face of social expectations and be OK with not having a perfect day.

I actually would have had a pretty good Sunday if it had just been a Sunday. I got to lie in bed for an extra hour. My husband picked up lunch for all of us. I got to buy and plant flowers with the kids. And we finished the day by having s’mores for dinner on the newly cleaned patio. But I also did laundry and dishes and changed diapers and made decisions (ugh, DECISIONS) and dealt with tantrums and took the kids with me to run errands and bought paper towels. I really didn’t want to have to buy paper towels on Mother’s Day.

Let me tell you what I really want for Mother’s Day. I want to be a dad on a regular Sunday. I’m making generalizations here for the sake of simplicity, but in my social circle moms are almost always the default parent; the one the kids go to first for everything no matter who is closer/more available at that moment. On Mother’s Day, I want to be the dad. The fun parent. I want to say “Everyone jump in the car, we’re getting ice cream!” and not worry about if it’s too close to dinner or if we need to stop at the grocery store later to pick up stuff for school lunch the next day. The fun parent pees alone. The fun parent has time to read a book or a magazine or the back of a cereal box without being interrupted. The fun parent doesn’t always have one ear open for children’s whines or screams or cries or problems or squabbles 24 hours a day. The fun parent says “We’re out of mustard” into the fridge and, magically, mustard appears 24 hours later.

And then MAYBE on Mother’s Day all of us default parents will get a card and a bouquet and a nap not because it’s our One Special Day but because the fun parent wants to do something to acknowledge being a mom is kind of a tough job.

But since I am not a monster, I did in fact enjoy many parts of my Mother’s Day. The big kids – Caroline especially – remembered it was Mother’s Day and reminded me constantly I was supposed to be having The Best Mother’s Day Ever. There were s’mores. And now whenever we sit on the front steps for the bus we can admire the flowers we planted, together.

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She said the plants needed love to grow.

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