Tag Archives: parenting

Violating child labor laws & other perks of parenting

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. I’m guessing it has something to do with a mother’s natural inclination to try to do everything herself. I mean, it’s hard to juggle 37 things at once by yourself. But it can often be harder to ask someone to jump in and match your exact rhythm to help you keep all those balls in the air.

Mom: I need help!

Random family member: Sure. What can I do to…

Mom: AH! WHY DID YOU LET ALL THOSE BALLS DROP!?!

Random family member: *lying on floor, dazed* Because you just threw 18 things at me in rapid succession.

Mom: Never mind! I’ll do it all myself! *murmurs what sounds suspiciously like curse words under her breath*

But after the 2,091st time cooking breakfast while trying to set the table while constantly hurdling small children and animals and toys while on a tight timetable, I finally realized something had to give. And that’s when I had my epiphany.

“Riker, come here, please!” I hollered to my 3-year-old from over the baby gate that separates the kitchen from the dining room.

“What, Mommy?” he said, looking up at me with those big, liquid, beautiful, trusting, brown eyes.

“Can you put this ketchup and butter on the table for me?”

“Oh! Sure, Mommy!”

And off he ran to do my biding, his little feet pitter-pattering and a giant smile on his face.

But that’s not the best part. Oh, no. Because the best part is he came BACK. And asked “what else, Mommy?”

“Holy crap,” I thought to myself. “How have I not thought of this before? Children are just glorified servants. I can make him help me…Sweet patron saint of stressed out mothers, I can pretty much make him do anything. FOR I AM HIS MAKER!”

And so, after suppressing what can only be described as an evil laugh, I handed him the plates. And then the silverware. And the napkins. And the baby’s bowl of gross, healthy mush. And our grown-up platters of unhealthy carbs and animal lard.

And just like that, my child set the table. I was so happy I could have cried (if I still felt any emotion other than “tired”).

Of course, don’t get the wrong idea. We aren’t “those” parents or anything. My husband and I make our son pick up his toys every night before bed (which requires heavy supervision) and we ask him to get the occasional diaper for his sister (which occasionally results in him actually getting us a diaper for his sister). We are firmly in the “kids should clean and do chores” camp. That whole “but children should just enjoy childhood” ideology is a completely foreign concept to us. I enjoyed my childhood, despite being forced to vacuum the world’s ugliest carpet with the world’s most ancient and heavy vacuum cleaner. And don’t even get my husband started on his childhood job delivering newspapers, which involves a story where he fell asleep under a tree during a snowstorm but, by God, everyone got their paper that day. And yes, it was uphill and 17 miles. Barefoot.

However, the concept of making my toddler do things that are actually helpful and not just things so he doesn’t grow up to be a horrible, entitled brat? That hadn’t occurred to me until that very moment.

Admittedly, it is strange it took me this long to piece it together. America is a country built pretty much on the concept of two people having kids JUST SO they would have help on the farm. Or with the family business. Or to bump up ratings on their reality TV show. In fact, I bet if you go back throughout all of history, there is evidence that every civilization exploited their kids for labor.

Viking mom: Ragnar! Come help me put this decapitated head on a pike!

Roman Empire mom: Remus! Come help clean up all this Caesar blood before it stains!

1920’s flapper mom: Ricky! It’s your turn to stir the bathtub gin!

But although this is new territory to me, I’m quickly getting the hang of it. Now when he spills something, I make HIM clean it up (and then clean it up after he cleans it up because he’s three and awful, just terrible, at it). When I dust, he gets a dust rag too now (as does his baby sister because fair is fair and she likes chewing on it). And just yesterday, he helped me fold (throw) laundry into a giant pile and sweep (hit his father with a Swiffer) the house.

It’s enough to make you wonder if we should maybe have more kids.

HAHAHAHAHA!

Just kidding. I’d sell a kid before deciding to make another one. But this has opened our eyes to a whole new world of opportunities.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a power washer and some duct tape to attach my toddler’s hands to it because our porch is looking pretty dingy.

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Mama said there’ll be days like this

Now before I say what I’m getting ready to say, let me say first that I realize I am hardly the first person to ever say this. Thousands, or hell, probably even millions of other people have not only said this, but said it much more eloquently and with far less booger jokes than I ever could. But after the week I had, I feel one more time is absolutely necessary. So, here it goes.

This stage of life is hard.

Oh, so hard.

Not that all stages of life don’t have their hard parts. They do. I remember the hard days possibly even more clearly than the not-hard-days of my carefree childhood. Because even in the happiest of childhoods, there are still monsters under the bed and playground bullies and a big, big scary world to navigate while only having a waist-high view of the big picture.

But this particular stage…oof. It can feel like a battle. A battle that you aren’t even trying to win anymore but just trying to summon up the will to show up for day in and day out.

War may be hell but raising small children is setting up permanent residence there.

OK, OK, yeah, that one went too far. Sorry. I love my life and my children and could not have engineered a more picturesque family life if I tried. Most days I look around and can’t believe my incredible luck that I get to be surrounded daily by the most amazing people to ever walk this planet.

I’m just so tired, you guys. Oh, so tired. And no matter how great your life is, there are bound to be bad days. And sometimes those bad days stretch out for an entire week. And all this week I’ve been dealing with a sick baby and a sick toddler and a partially incapacitated husband who was trying his best but was also sick and still trying to do his job and work on a freelance project in his spare time. To top it all off, my stupid dog is getting old and was diagnosed with a heart murmur and arthritis and I love my stupid dog so much and if anything ever happened to him I would DIE.

Again, sorry. As you can tell, I tend to get dramatic when I’m tired. No, YOU need to tone it down, missy!

There were doctor appointments and vet appointments and a million miles walked around the house in the middle of the night trying to soothe a miserable infant. There were too many tantrums to count and too many meals that had to be made and too many arguments about stupid, little things and too many loads of laundry and dishes and too many boogers being wiped on my jeans (fine, mustard-stained sweatpants).

There were just too many tiny creatures needing tender, loving care and not enough of me to go around.

And it all culminated on Friday afternoon when I had to pick the dog up from the vet but since we only have the one car, I had to walk there with one kid strapped to my chest and pushing the other one in the stroller. The dog was straining with all his might against the leash and the baby was crying again and I was unsuccessfully trying to steer the stroller with one hand and the diaper bag weighed a million pounds and my back was aching from the dog’s constant pulling and then the dog zigged when I zagged and I dropped the leash and he took off running and it was the ultimate nightmare scenario. I’m trying to chase him beside the incredibly busy road while also trying not to jostle my 4-month-old too much or tipping over my toddler in the stroller. Meanwhile, visions of my stupid dog as bloody roadkill kept flashing before my eyes.

Long story short, I finally do catch the dog. And then I just stand there. And cry.

And cry and cry and cry.

Cars zooming past, baby still crying, dog still straining, toddler asking repeatedly “what’s wrong, Momma?”

And yet, all I can do is stand there and cry.

So, why do I bother sharing this horrible moment in my life? Simply to remind those of you who are in a similar boat, who are juggling kids and stupid, beloved pets and jobs and obligations and deadlines and aging parents and house buying and internal demons and external hazards and an aching back and a budget that never seems to stretch enough while in the background a steady hum of news reports declaring the end of the world is nigh plays continuously, that you are not alone.

This part is hard. But you showed up for today. You may or may not be wearing pants, but hey, you showed up. Better yet, you managed to sneak in some snuggles and a game of tickle monster and an almost coherent conversation about dinosaurs riding in rocket ships.

We’re going to get through this. Just like how I eventually wiped away my tears and continued on my way home, we’ll all eventually dust ourselves off and keep going.

And in the meantime, let’s all take a moment to breathe deep and look around and soak it in. Because one day all the noise will stop. All the chaos will stop. All the craziness will stop. And we’re going to miss it. You know we will. And we will wonder what we were ever complaining about in the first place.

 

34 Things I’ve Learned in 34 Years

My birthday is next week. Which means it’s that time again. Time to reflect on all the ways I’ve grown wiser. All the ways I’ve matured. All the ways I’ve perfected my spitball-throwing ability.

And as such, here are the 34 things I’ve learned in 34 years…

1. There are a lot of horrible things that happen to people every day. The dude at Burger King forgetting your fries is not one of them.

2. Never cheat on your spouse. Even if it means nothing to you, it was just five minutes, you just wanted a little taste, a little thrill. It’s not worth it. No matter how much you want to watch the next episode of “Game of Thrones” before they get home.

3. If a woman breastfeeding in public offends you, by all means you should feel free to avoid all public spaces.

4. If you find a coffee shop without a long line, RUN. It means the zombie apocalypse is finally upon us.

5. Marriage isn’t a race, it’s a marathon. Only instead of stopping every few miles to chug water, you head to the bar and chug beer.

6. Everyone needs to stop making fun of women who wear yoga pants and flip flops in public. We were once forced to wear corsets and bind our feet. Not to mention the jelly shoes we wore as children in the 80’s, which were basically tiny plastic blister factories. We’ve paid our dues and earned the right to be comfortable no matter where we are.

7. Baking is an art not everyone can master. But you throw enough cocoa powder into the batter and pretty much anything is edible.

8. Children should be seen and not heard. Because if you can’t see them, chances are high they are rubbing Vaseline all over the dog and eating a blue marker.

9. Remember that you can always turn your life around. Just look at Ryan from “The O.C.” Now he’s police commissioner and his best friend is Batman.

10. To you, that 3D ultrasound photo of your unborn baby is a beautiful rendering of your precious miracle. To the rest of us, it’s a horrifying image of baby Skeletor.

11. Always turn your weaknesses into your strengths. For instance, in my almost 34 years here on earth, I have never successfully folded a burrito. But that’s why Monday night dinners are called “Mexican Waffle Cone Night” in my house.

12. Is there any sound better than the sound of a child’s laughter? Yes. The sound of a cranky child finally napping.

13. No, you weren’t a queen in your past life. You were likely a peasant who died of scurvy.

14. There is only one way to end a friendship with another woman you no longer wish to be friends with without hurting her feelings. And that way is one of you has to die.

15. Just when you lose faith in humanity, some genius comes along and sets a Beyonce video to the “DuckTales” theme song and your faith is restored.

16. Always do the voices when reading aloud to your kid.

17. I don’t care what anyone says, pets adopted from the shelter know you rescued them.

18. Don’t let your age determine your style. Be you. Always.

19. Having tattoos doesn’t make you a bad person. Wearing Crocs makes you a bad person. (Kidding! Seriously though, the Croc industry has to be stopped).

20. Call your mother.

21. Just when you lose your faith in humanity AGAIN, some genius sets a Taylor Swift song to an 80’s exercise video and BOOM. Restored. Again.

22. The laundry can wait. Playing “The Floor is Lava” with your children can’t.

23. Stop worrying about getting your hair wet and just swim.

24. Read more books.

25. If you’re on the subway and a pregnant woman gets on, give your seat to her. And your coffee. And your donut. And your newspaper. And $1,000. Growing humans is hard.

26. Speaking of which, love your body, no matter what shape or size. Your mom worked damn hard to make it.

27. Go ahead, have that second glass of wine.

28. We need to take better care of the Earth. Because the Earth produces coffee beans. Which produces coffee. Which is the only reason humans haven’t completely destroyed each other yet.

29. Travel more.

30. I don’t know the meaning of life, but I suspect it has something to do with stuffing a baby’s tootsies in your mouth.

31. Go ahead, have that third glass of wine.

32. You never see hamsters in the wild. This isn’t really a life lesson, I just think it’s super weird.

33. Teachers should be paid more, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they have to pronounce all the ridiculous names, with all their ridiculous spellings, we give our kids nowadays.

34. Og head, hav htat forth bootle off wine.

Hey mom, I get it now

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.

The Battle of Crib Hill

Today is the day. The battle lines have been drawn. The weapons sharpened and at the ready. And once the smoke clears, a clear victor shall emerge from the carnage.

For over five months now, I’ve been a prisoner in this war. Day after day, praying and hoping and scheming to win back my freedom. Only to be disappointed yet again as the sun disappears beyond the horizon.

Hungry. Sleep-deprived. Covered in filth. No one should have to live this way. Some might argue that I brought this on myself. But my fellow soldiers in this war, my brothers-and-sisters-in-arms, know that when we took on this mission (code name: Operation Reproduction), it was only with the best of intentions.

But no more. Not today. No. Today is the day. The day I end this standoff. The day I ignite a revolution. The day I mix my military metaphors and arbitrarily abuse alliteration.

The air is tense as I put my plan into motion. Feasting on his mid-morning meal, my captor has no idea what is coming. I let him dine in peace, for all too soon the screaming will start. Let him have these last few serene moments.

He falls asleep. With one last look at his vulnerable face, I put the plan (code name: Operation This Kid Will Finally Nap In His Stupid Crib So Help Me) into action.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I get up from the rocking chair. He begins to stir, letting out a small whine. I freeze. Everything hangs in the balance.

crib2

But luck is on my side. He quickly slumbers again.

I carry the tiny dictator in my arms with the gentle yet tense gait of a bomb squad member carrying an undetonated grenade. I carefully lower him into the cage. Against all odds, he continues the deep sleep of the blissfully ignorant. I straighten my body, hardly daring to breath. Things are going well.

Too well.

Freedom is within my grasp. I’m so close I can taste it. Sweat drips down into my eyes as I creep on my tiptoes to the nursery door. Thoughts swirl around in my brain as I allow myself to imagine what I’ll do once I’m free. Eat? Pee? Nap? Finally tweeze my neglected caveman eyebrows?

All four at once?

But then, out of nowhere, BOOM! A shot rings out from the most unlikeliest of places. And I freeze as the dog’s bark hangs in the air, eyes wide, not breathing, not moving. Stuck in what seems like a never-ending moment where the possibility that the shot missed its target is still alive.

The baby starts crying.

Done in by friendly fire.

I stand there, defeated, waiting the obligatory minute or two to see if he will fall back asleep. But deep in my heart, I know he won’t. The chains have been slapped back on.

The cries grow louder.

I pick the enemy combatant up, soothing him. Meanwhile, violent images where I whack the dog repeatedly with a giant cartoon mallet plays out inside my brain. The dog stares me, almost like he knows what I’m imagining. I throw him my best “you’re dead to me” crazed-eye look.

He at least has the decency to hang his head and look guilty.

crib1

Long hours pass. Long hours in which the enemy is cranky and repeatedly spits out his semi-automatic binkie, aiming for that spot under the rocking chair that I can never quite reach. He refuses to go back to sleep now that he knows of my betrayal.

The punishment fits the crime, I suppose.

Later in the day, I make a half-hearted attempt to resurrect my escape plan. Feed him. Lull him to sleep. Lower him once again down into baby jail.

But my spirit is broken. It inevitably fails. As his head hits the crib mattress, his eyes fly open and I’ve barely dropped to the floor and army-crawled passed the changing table before the indignant screaming at being betrayed again start.

crib3

By the time dusk arrives, Stockholm Syndrome has set in. It’s my fault he won’t nap in his crib. I’m a horrible mom. There are moms who have their newborns trained to sleep in their cribs during the day before the babies are even fully emerged from the birthing canal. I should have read a parenting book written by someone other than Dave Barry.

But just when all appears to be lost, reinforcements arrive. Commander Daddy bursts onto the scene like the hero that he is and surveys the battlefield. The broken and mutilated toys lying on the ground. The vultures and flies circling a never eaten sandwich; a sandwich made back when hope was still alive.

The commander immediately cuts off my chains, taking the tiny tyrant in his bare arms.

Free.

I’m finally free.

Granted, it is only temporary. But it will have to do for now.

I go into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of wine. A tiny consolation after yet another day of defeat.

By the time I make it back to the main battlefield in the living room, I see the commander sitting in the rocking chair, arms empty.

“Where is he?!” I demand.

“Sleeping in the crib. He was exhausted. Went right down.”

I turn back around and grab a bigger wine glass.