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Hey mom, you should know…I get it now.
No, I mean, I GET IT NOW. I know. And you probably already know I know (you’re a mom afterall) but I’m still going to say it.
You are not perfect. You never were (contrary to what the dozens of cards featuring obscene amounts of glitter that I gave to you over the years said). You have flaws. Lots of them.
I know, I know. Gee, Happy Mother’s Day to you. But I can say that now because I’m finally a mother myself. So, yes, you are far from perfect.
And that’s what makes all the things you did all the more extraordinary.
See, it would be super easy to be a mom if you were a saint. If you had endless reserves of patience. But you weren’t and you didn’t. You were just a person. A human with regular reserves of patience. And yet, you were able to calmly tell me for the 16th time that, no, we weren’t there yet, honey, despite the fact that your brain was silently screaming at me to SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP!
I know this because I have calmly told my son no less than 19 times today to leave the computer cable alone, please. And all the while my brain was silently screaming STOPITSTOPITSTOPITSTOPIT!
I now know how much you wanted that last piece of pie. That you had, in fact, been thinking about that damn piece of pie all day. That the thought of eating that pie was the only thing that got you through that incredibly crappy day you were having. And yet, you kindly and nonchalantly gave it to me and watched me shove it into my unappreciative mouth hole simply because I asked for it before you had a chance to grab it and eat it in the safety of the bathroom.
I know because I truly, deeply wanted that last cupcake and yet handed it over to my grunting, frantic toddler with a smile.
I know that you dreaded waking up at the butt crack of dawn just to take me to my stupid volleyball practice. DREADED it. All you wanted was more sleep, or just 15 minutes to enjoy your coffee and the newspaper, or any other activity that didn’t require wearing pants. And yet, every morning, there you sat in the cold, dark car, acting like there was no other place you’d rather be.
I know this because I dragged myself out of bed this morning at 6 a.m. even though I would have traded some pretty vital organs for five more minutes of sleep. And yet I opened that nursery door with a big grin and cheerfully sang the “Good Morning” song to my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed child.
I know that even though you were always 100 percent supportive of all my dreams, even the stupid ones (“I want to be a supermodel and then work as a vet on the weekends!”), you secretly agonized over my future.
I know that when I was being bullied and you told me that violence was never the answer, it took every ounce of strength you had not to punch that tiny brat in the face.
I know that your heart stopped every time I climbed to the top of that tree and that it melted every time I gave you a hug and that it broke every time mine did.
I know that those vaccine shots, that punishment, that alcohol poured over that skinned knee did, in fact, hurt you worse than it hurt me.
I know that every single day you felt that terrible push-pull feeling of wanting to protect me from everything and wanting me to experience everything life had to offer.
I know that you lied when you said everything would be OK. Because you didn’t actually know if everything would be OK. But you would be damned if you were going to let me worry about it.
And I know that the one thing you never lied about was how beautiful I am. And how smart. And how funny. And oh, so brave. I never believed you but you were telling the truth.
Because I am. To you.
I know because I too gave birth to the most beautiful, smartest, funniest, bravest child that ever lived.
Oh, and mom, that goes both ways. I never noticed the muffin tops and cellulite. The crow’s feet and laugh lines. The slightly crooked teeth. All the things I saw you agonize over. I just saw the most beautiful woman in the world who was always willing to let me crawl into her bed every time I had a nightmare. And would probably even let me crawl in today.
I get it now, mom. I get it.
I vowed long before I ever had children that I would never be one of those overly sentimental mothers. You know the kind. The ones that make keepsakes out of their children’s teeth and first baby curls, like some sort of socially acceptable child body part hoarder. The ones who cry at their kid’s kindergarten graduation ceremony (like that’s actually a thing, an actual important event). The ones who “ohh” and “ahh” and frame little junior’s drawing of a green horse that looks, let’s be honest, like a nauseous Jabba the Hutt.
But not me. Nope. I mean, come on. The whole POINT of having children is to raise them, to turn them into fully functioning adults who can wipe their own boogers and climb off the couch in a manner that doesn’t resemble a sky diving incident gone horribly wrong. Not keep them in some sort of infantile limbo. Hell, my son is currently too young to even understand, let alone say, “Mom, come wipe my butt” and already I’m looking forward to the day I never have to hear that sentence ever again.
You knew there was an “and then” coming, didn’t you? Of course you did. You’re not an idiot like I am.
And then my son needed a haircut. His first. Too many “what an adorable little girl!” comments from other people and too many “stop sucking on your bangs” reprimands from me finally pushed my hand. Not that I was putting off his first haircut or anything.
That would be too sentimental.
I waited until the morning of the day he was going to have his pictures taken by my photographer cousin. Not that I was waiting until the last possible moment or anything.
That would also be too sentimental.
It just, uh, happened to work out that way. And don’t you dare think for one second that me scheduling the hair appointment to coincide with a trip to visit family in my hometown in Ohio (800 miles from my current home in Boston) just so my high school friend would be the one to cut Riker’s hair had anything to do with sentimentality. It didn’t, ok? It didn’t.
It was simply because I couldn’t stand the thought of some stranger’s dirty, disgusting hands pawing through my baby’s pristine ginger curls and heartlessly chopping them off like they DIDN’T EVEN MATTER. Like they weren’t made from the most precious stuff ON EARTH.
And yes, I’m sure that the fact that I asked Samantha if she could cut me off just ONE of his curls as a keepsake looks, from the outside, like a sentimental request. But I was just being practical. In case, you know, something, god forbid, ever happened to Riker and we needed a sample of his DNA to give to a mad scientist who would then use it to create Riker’s identical clone.
And sure, then asking her to cut off another keepsake curl might seem a bit ridiculous, but hey, you never know. Something could always happen to Riker’s clone and it’s always good to have a backup-backup plan.
And ok, FINE! Perhaps asking for that third curl to also be cut and gingerly wrapped up in plastic was overkill. But what if, I don’t know, a fire destroyed the first curl and then a plague of baby hair-eating locusts destroys the second one? What then, huh? Am I still being overly sentimental? Or just incredibly reasonable and forward-thinking?
So, plainly, as you can see, I have kept to that vow I made long ago to never be one of those overly sentimental parents. Even now, with my baby’s new haircut making him look 37 and the fact that I can’t remember the last time he fell asleep on my chest and tomorrow he’ll be leaving for college and he’ll never call me and then he’ll move away and I’ll never see him and then he’ll have his own kids but be too busy to come visit because the office is undergoing a regime change but maybe next year, Mom, and cat’s in the cradle and some junk about a silver spoon or something…
And all of that will be just fine by me.
I have my shrine of three baby curls, two dozen or so teeth and that damned ugly Jabba horse to keep me company.
It doesn’t happen all at once. I suppose that’s why it happens to so many people. It just tends to sneak up on you. And by the time you realize what’s happening, it’s already too late.
Suddenly, you’re boring.
I should know. I have completely morphed into the most boring person alive (even including that guy I met seven years ago who started every sentence with “Well, actually,” and thought a three-hour diatribe about how much he hated George Lucas—while wearing a “Star Wars” T-shirt, mind you –was an appropriate response to the question “Hey, how are you?”).
Granted, the very idea of “boring” is relative. What you find boring and what I find boring could be vastly different. For instance, the few times I have accidentally watched sports is only because alcohol tends to hang out wherever sports are happening. And I’m the kind of devoted drinker that will pretend to care about 11 burly men in ridiculously tight pants if it means society will give me a free pass to get drunk at two in the afternoon.
And you, for example, may find books boring. Or fancy cheese. Or Saturday Night Live. Meanwhile, my life goal is to find a job that just lets me read all day while eating fancy cheese and the only time I’m interrupted is when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler take Instagram selfies of the three of us with the hashtag “Best Friends Forever.”
Legend has it there are even people out there who find math exciting. Yes. Math. That thing with all the numbers but also, cruelly, letters and tiny hieroglyphics. But just like so many other legends, their existence is hard to proof (but if you look hard enough, there are cosines of them everywhere).
Sorry. I’ll stop being so acute. Math puns are a sine of a big problem. Never drink and derive, kids.
But the kind of boring I’m talking about, the kind of boring I have turned into, is universal. It’s the kind of boring you become once you have a baby. And while our society may be fractured on pretty much every topic imaginable, we can all agree at least that parents of young children are just the worst.
We are utterly obsessed with our children. They are all we think about. They are all we talk about. And they are all we think everyone else in the world wants to think and talk about.
Granted, in our defense, nature makes us this way because it knows that only an obsessed person could find the energy to pull a kid away from the computer cord 200 times a day, every day, without their head exploding. But that biological explanation is a poor consolation prize for the innocent barista I cornered for 27 minutes with my rambling monologue on how my son used to love bananas and now he hates them.
And the worst part is that we don’t even care that we’ve become boring. We don’t care that the only thing we can contribute to a discussion about Netflix shows is that Ricky Gervais was on an episode of “Sesame Street” and it made you laugh so hard that you scared little junior. Or that the last book you read was “Let’s Go To The Baby Animal Farm!” And you actually LIKED it. Or that the only political opinion you have these days is that someone should probably be elected president but here, look at this rash on my baby’s butt…do you think it’s regular diaper rash or something more serious?
Oh my god, we are so boring. Which is why you see us parents of young children hanging out in clans. We’re the only ones who can put up with each other. And even then, we are secretly hoping Brenda shuts up about her stupid kid soon so we can talk about our own vastly superior kid.
The good news is that this too shall pass. The kids will get older and become more independent and with that freed up space in our brain that used to be occupied by cutting the crusts off approximately one million sandwiches, we will remember that we used to be a person too. A person with interests and hobbies and dreams and poop stain-free pants.
Yes, someday we parents will become people again.
But until then, you totally think it’s weird that my baby no longer likes bananas too, right? I mean, what’s up with that?
1. Don’t have a baby.
Just like abstinence is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, not having a baby is the only way to 100 percent effectively baby proof your home. Because no matter what you do, they will figure out a way around it eventually. And if they can’t, they will find a new, even more creative way to kill themselves while simultaneously breaking all your vinyl records and shoving a graham cracker into your Xbox.
2. Buy junior a shock collar
Illegal? Yes, highly. Effective? Probably. Cruel? Depends on how many times the tiny demon spawn has pulled all your books down from the bookshelf that day.
3. Get a helmet (for you)
Sure, kids hit their head a lot at this stage. What with the drunken staggering and all. But actually it’s the parents that really need the helmet. Because despite what science says about young children’s soft skulls, their go-to defensive move when a parent tries to stop them from drinking the bleach they found under the sink is the head butt. And they have deceptively good aim. Which is why I now look like Owen Wilson and have had more minor concussions than an NFL player.
4. Forget a baby gate. Get a Baby Great Wall of China.
The Baby Great Wall of China works particularly well if you also have men sitting at the top of it to shoot tiny Nerf arrows at little precious should he or she attempt to scale the wall and make a break for it.
5. Invest in that toilet seat latch thingie
This little tool is amazing at keeping your baby from opening the toilet lid and playing with poop water. It’s also amazing at keeping out parents who really, really, really have to pee RIGHT NOW because they drank a gallon of coffee because SOMEONE kept them up all night last night. But if you are OK with explaining to junior why he saw Mommy peeing in the shower with all her clothes on, then this is the right product for you.
6. Surgically attach your baby directly to your back (or your chest…your choice) so they are never, ever unsupervised.
This one too is probably highly illegal. It will also make those college interviews extremely awkward. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And, added bonus, you can just teach your kid to call you Hodor and suddenly the whole thing seems culturally relevant.
7. Stop buying cleaning products, which are chockfull of dangerous chemicals.
And without cleaning products, oh no, you can’t clean anymore. Bummer. (That’s what we call a win-win, kids.)
8. Own only crappy stuff.
In theory, this seems like a great idea. But as someone who already only owns crappy stuff, I’m the first to admit that you can also become really attached to the laptop held together with duct tape and the couch covered in martini stains.
9. Don’t own anything at all.
If you decide to ignore my advice in Tip #1, then the second most effective way to keep your toddler with the perpetually sticky jam hands out of all your things is to simply not own anything. However, even then, they would still try to fall out of a window in your empty home. And even if you lived outside, no windows in sight, they would try their damnedest to walk into a river or try to alleviate teething pain by gnawing on a bear.
So, basically, to sum up, you’re screwed.