Monthly Archives: March 2018

Important brain thoughts from an exhausted parent

I have a confession. I’m supposed to be writing right now. Which, yes, “technically” I am. I am “technically” stringing together letters into words and those words into sentences.  

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t really want to be writing right now. My brain is mush. Just a mushy, mushy, leaky puddle of its former self. This has been a particularly trying week and my children have sunk their adorable tiny little teeth into my skull and sucked out all the good bits. All that’s left is the part that instinctively knows when they are trying to climb up the unsecured bookcase and the part that knows the theme song to “Golden Girls.”

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In fact, I’m starting to suspect that part of the deal when you become a parent is that you help your children’s brains grow by sacrificing your own.

And so today, well, today I just don’t have it in me to write a coherent 800 words on some amusing and absurd aspect of life. I barely had it in me to brush my teeth this morning.

Which is why the bulk of this column is just going to be unrelated random musings because that’s all the poor, overworked, single brain cell left functioning in my head can handle right now.

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So…*drums nails on keyboard*…y’all want to talk about coffee? So good, right? I lost count but I’m on something like my seventh cup. I wonder who was the first person who looked at a coffee bean plant and said “How would it taste if we burned the crap out of this and poured hot water over it?” Whoever it is, they deserve a holiday and a fancy parade. Screw Columbus. Let’s have Coffee Inventor Day.

You know what else is awesome? “Jessica Jones” on Netflix.

I don’t have a follow-up to that. Just that it’s awesome.

How come you never see wild hamsters? Unrelated but equally important, what is nougat? I mean, it’s in candy bars, but what IS it?

Here are some important geographical observations:

Everyone in the Northeast eats a lot of ice cream in the winter.

There hasn’t been an official vote, but I’m pretty sure Mountain Dew is the official drink of my home state of Ohio.

If you want to start a fight in the South, try casually suggesting that sweet tea is gross. (And start running the second you see someone’s grandma taking off her earrings).

By my count, 80’s fashion has come back no less than four times since the actual 1980’s.

Does everyone hate the substitute meteorologist who occasionally fills in for the regular meteorologist on their morning TV news show or am I just being ridiculously unfair to Barry and his stupid face?

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The other day I overheard two young women talking. The one was telling the other “I, like, literally, and this wasn’t my choice at all, but I literally watched him play video games all night. And at one point he told me, ‘you seem bored.’ Like, yeah, I’m bored.” And it took every ounce of willpower I had not to whip out my best Tina Fey impression and yell “that’s a dealbreaker, ladies!”

Then, after I walked away, I almost turned around to do my best “he’s just not that into you” Miranda Hobbes impression but managed to stop myself again. Because I’m a grown-up.

God, I hope she doesn’t marry him.

And lastly, I recently found out that Madeleine L’Engle, the famous author of the “A Wrinkle in Time” series, had three kids, had her manuscript rejected 30 times before it was published and had almost given up writing on her 40th birthday because she was still not pulling her own weight financially even after all the hours she spent writing.  

So there is some tiny sliver of hope for all of us hardworking creative souls out there who are drowning in parenting responsibility but are desperately still pursuing our own passions while wading those choppy waters every day. It’s hard giving up nights, weekends, whatever meager free time we have. But we keep going. Even on the mushy brain weeks. For a very important reason.

That I can’t think of right now.

But probably because your heart is true and you’re a pal and confidant.

 

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Beggars can be choosers

Do you have pearls on right now? If so, prepare to clutch them…

I no longer care what my kids eat.

Oh yeah. I said it. And I mean it. This nose ring and these tattoos aren’t just for show. I’m a rebel mom. (slowly pulls off motorcycle helmet and shakes out hair)

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I. Don’t. Care. You hear me, world? I DON’T CARE.

OK, OK, I do care. Of course I care. I’m a mom. (sets down motorcycle helmet and puts on cardigan) I’ll care about what my kids eat until the day I die. In fact, my last words will likely be “are you eating enough vegetables, honey?”

However, I did have an epiphany recently that means I will no longer fight with my kids over what they eat at dinner. (takes off cardigan and puts on cardigan decorated with skulls!)

I was 35 the first time I tried cream cheese on a bagel. My whole life, up until that fateful day, I had dutifully been spreading butter on my bagels. Like an idiot.

I have two college degrees, am a voracious reader, spent years working as a journalist, and literally thought cream cheese on a bagel was icky for no other reason than I decided it was icky one day as a small child despite having never tried it. And I held onto that belief for multiple decades despite the whole world telling me it was one of the most delicious combos ever dreamed up by humans.

And when I finally did try it (AT THE AGE OF 35), it was so amazing I literally stole the other half of the bagel from my 3-year-old son.

Worst of all is that this is just the latest in a series of foods I finally tried as an adult that I spent my whole life thinking were icky.

I was 21 before I tried coffee (and 27 when I tried it black for the first time).

I was 25 before I tried hummus.

I was 28 when I first tried guacamole.

And the first half of my 30’s has been busy trying and falling in love with crab rangoon, artichoke hearts, falafel, spinach dip, reuben sandwiches and all the cheeses outside of the “colby” range.

So, I no longer care what my kids choose to eat off their plates. Because, honestly, how can I expect them to have a more reasonable attitude toward food than I do? A grown woman who still has never tasted a mushroom (AT THE AGE OF 36) because the word fungus makes me cringe?

“But, Aprill!” I hear you yelling at the screen as you clutch those pearls. “You don’t want your kids to end up like you, do you!? Isn’t that all the more reason to force them to try stuff?”

And yes, you’re right. I don’t want my kids to be 35 and just realizing that cream cheese is the delicious glue that holds our entire society together. However, my mom once forced me to eat a tomato when I was six and we had a three hour standoff over it and it became a core memory and one that I tell everyone about and I still, to this day, hate tomatoes and refuse to eat them. So, that method isn’t always foolproof either.

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More importantly, I’d much rather my kids have a sane mother, a mother who is not angry and frustrated at every meal, than for them to have a diverse palate. I no longer want to be the mom who hijacks dinner over a bite of corn. Because that is what every meal was starting to feel like. A hostage situation. With exhausting and tedious negotiations. It got to the point that everyone was starting to dread meal time.

Which is why I’m taking dinner back. I want to sit around and talk about our day and laugh and joke and relax. I want breakfast to be a bonding experience and not a waterboarding experience. I want to hand them their lunch plates and when they say “I don’t want to eat that,” I simply respond “OK, just eat the other stuff” and BOOM. We move onto other things.

It’s a gamble, sure. My kids will likely end up with scurvy. But then again, pretty much all of parenthood is one giant gamble, isn’t it?

In the end, having a bowl of peas on the table that everyone ignores is a pretty small price to pay for wonderful memories sitting around the kitchen table with the people you love.

And besides, peas are icky.

 

Go play with your sister. That’s why we had her.

Guys, we’re going to have to change the meaning of the word “natural.” It’s either that or stop referring to anything related to motherhood and parenting as “natural.”

Take breastfeeding. Feeding your child with your very own body. It’s often claimed this is, and I quote, “the most natural thing in the world.” It is not. It is semi-aggressively shoving a sore and tattered body part over and over into your tiny baby’s piranha mouth until they finally latch on correctly. Which they have no idea how to do and you have no idea how to get them to do. Which is why you’re both crying and screaming while your husband and your mother and the lactation specialist all crowd around and take turns violently squishing said sore and tattered body part into various shapes in a vain effort to help.

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Then, even when they get older, eating does not come naturally to children. Nor does eating natural foods. Every day is another scene in the ongoing play “Here’s Food, Little Humans!” And every day ends in the same climatic final scene, with the kids yelling, “Oh no, we can’t eat that! That has actual nutrients in it! We demand Cheetos with some Play-Doh dip on the side!”

Sleep? Pffft. Forget it. Getting a kid to sleep “naturally” in their bed requires months of training, semi-professional ninja skills and, when all else fails, sacrificing a small goat to the deity of your choosing.

Kids even turn bodily functions into an absurd struggle. There is nothing natural about potty training. Even animals know not to crap where they sleep. Humans have to be rewarded with stickers and candy for months, sometimes years, before they finally relent and agree that yeah, sleeping is easier when you don’t have a pantsful of poop.

And there is nothing, NOTHING, natural about the unholy and indescribable agony you feel when stepping on a child’s Lego, which I imagine is its own level down in Hell. Just a big ‘ol round room where the floor is covered in Legos and Satan tells you “you can leave as soon as you find a corner.”  

But perhaps the one that surprised me the most is that siblings don’t naturally know how to play with each other. At least my kids don’t. A fact I have oh-so-delightfully been discovering as they get older.

Every day I practically have to introduce the two.

“Oh, Riker, you remember your sister, the tiny creature who ruined your awesome only child existence? Why don’t you see if she wants to play Stormtroopers?”

“Mae, this is your brother. He also thinks it’s fun to spin around until you want to puke, unlike me, your mother. How about you ask him to spin around for 27 minutes straight?”

And every day, they both tell me the exact same thing.

“No! I want to play with YOU, Momma!”

If I am anywhere in the vicinity, forget it. They basically treat me like a portable playground, just clinging and swinging from any body part they can grab onto while I desperately run past on my way to the bathroom or the kitchen or the basement to do exciting things like shower or cook or find a dark corner to inject sugar and carbohydrates directly into my veins.

I just don’t get it. They’re only two years apart. And yet, the oldest seems to view his sister as merely a pet, but like a pet with mange and rabies and thus a pet that should be avoided at all costs.

And I always thought the younger sibling was supposed to worship the older one, following them around like some moon-eyed pet. Not my daughter. Nope. She always seems to be plotting how to overthrow her brother, as though he were an heir to some fabulous kingdom. Even though I keep reminding her that our kingdom is small and in debt and has a wonky dishwasher that is on the fritz. 

It may be time to admit that my two beautiful, smart, funny, kind, wonderful children are duds in the sibling department.

But hey, it’s not like the only reason we had two kids is so that they would have someone to play with. We also had two kids so they can pool their money when they get older and send me and their father to a top-notch swanky retirement home.

 

Dating your spouse & other unfair adult things

For a 10-year-old who used to fantasize about going on elaborate dates with Jonathan Taylor Thomas to an almost excessive degree, I grew up to be a not very romantic adult. Take Valentine’s Day, for instance. I’ve never been a big fan. I don’t like a holiday dictating when I should shave my legs.

Or Sweetest Day, for that matter. What is this thing? Valentine’s Day 2: Buy Harder?

Not that I think there’s anything wrong with romance, per se. I’m just more a believer in spontaneous romance. The unexpected slow dance in the living room. The bouquet of flowers on a random Monday. The “I’m bringing pizza home for dinner!” text.

Followed by the “And beer!” text.

Which probably explains my whole “thing” about date night.

See, kids, when a man and a woman love each other very much, they spend a boatload on tulle and fancy almonds so they can get married. And then they do a special hug, which results in children and never being able to pee alone again. And, after awhile, although the man and the woman still love each other, they kind of forget they are actual human beings and not just cogs in a butt wiping factory.

Which is why date night was invented.

If you talk to most parents, they will say that hiring a babysitter and going out for an evening is vitally important to your relationship so that you and your partner can reconnect and remember that at one point you could carry on an entire conversation that didn’t involve the words “poop” or “smear” or “we’ll probably have to move, that smell is never coming out.” And I’m not here to argue that. I agree with date nights in theory.

It’s just in the execution that it’s flawed.

When you have kids, especially young kids, it doesn’t matter if you want to go out or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re exhausted or not in the mood or already had big plans to eat an entire cheesecake while watching “Cougar Town” once the kids were asleep. You simply force yourself to go out if and when some idiot agrees to watch your adorable, ridiculous children (who just invented a game where you chase them around with a flashlight for six hours straight).

Which is why my husband and I went on a date night last week when my mom was visiting from out of town. The last thing we wanted to do was reconnect. We wanted dual naps while an IV dripped vodka into our veins. But what did we do? We went out because, hey, we had bagged us an idiot.

Now, I don’t know how your date nights usually go, but ours usually follows the same script. The conversation always starts off awkward.

Me: Hey.

Him: Hey.

Then we actually look at each other and it gets even worse.

Me: Have you always had that much white in your beard?

Him: When’s the last time you brushed your hair?

Then we spend a few minutes venting.

Me: If your daughter takes her diaper off one more time, we’re not paying for her college.

Him: He keeps headbutting my crotch. I know I can’t do it back to him but, seriously, just one time and he’d probably stop.

Then it gets lame:

Me: God, I’m so tired.

Him: So tired.

Real lame.

Me: I mean, just so tired.

Him: How long have we been gone?

Me (checks watch): 12 minutes.

And then we remember that alcohol exists.

Me: I’ll take a bottle of Merlot.

Bartender: To share?

Me: Hahahaha

Him: What is the closest thing I can pour into my mouth? I’ll take three.

Bartender: Uh…

Which quickly leads to things like:

Me: I am going to finish my novel this year. I’ll write nights, weekends, whatever it taks.

Him: Yes, you need to. I’ve always thought so. You’re talented even if you don’t think so.

Me: Well, so are you! Look at all you’ve accomplished so far. All you do for us, it’s just…

Him: Well, I couldn’t do it without you by my side. *cheers*

And later:

Me: I LOVE YOU SO #$%@*&^ MUCH.

Him: YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING! AM I TALKING TOO LOUD?

Me: NO, NOT AT ALL.

And that is ultimately why we drag our exhausted, bedraggled asses out on date night. Even if we don’t want to. Because in the end it is necessary. Because it works. Because before all of us there was a we. A we with hopes and dreams and passions and unique personalities and a much higher tolerance for alcohol.

And sometimes we forget.

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