Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This is sooooo politically incorrect...

Before I had kids, I thought I was going to really have to work at not becoming The Mommy. I thought I was going to get sucked into the whole thing: Motherhood. I thought I might love it all so much, be so enamored by the whole adventure, that I'd forget about being The Wife or The Friend or Just Me.

Boy, was I wrong.

It turns out (brace yourself...big secret coming...major potential for offense here) I don't really like being a mommy much.

It's true.

After all those years of worrying that I would love it so much I'd cross over to the other side...the side with bob haircuts and no stilettos and scrapbooking parties and holiday-patterned cardigans...it turned out I'm not actually The Mommy Type.

Hmph. Who knew?

Okay, so yeah...this is where I say what I have to say (which is actually quite true): I love my kids, I have no regrets, I am sooooo grateful for them, their health, their smiles, their moments of joy. Yes. Blah blah blah. I am all of that too. But mostly, I am tired. And stressed. And exhausted. And sleep-deprived. And sex-deprived. And freedom-deprived. And carefree-ness-deprived. (What do you mean, 'That's not a word'?!?)

*Intermission: As I am typing, my chubby little Aidan Kai crawls over, pulls himself up, grabs onto my leg and, in an attempt to join my blogging confessions, starts slapping at the keyboard. Then, as I point out his little piggy toy is waiting for him a few feet away, he grins his dimply toothy smile and trots off...yes, trots...because he has just started to walk, and I melt a teeny bit. Parenting is the only thing that can make you feel that way: a million contradicting emotions at once. Frustrated. Trapped. Amazed. Blessed. Giggling at his antics while bitching about them...*

But yeah...I've come to realize that I am not The Mommy Type. I thought I might become the mommy type after some practice, but yeah, um, no. Like at the end of my workday, I don't always look forward to going home. I don't. I know. That's really, really terrible. But it's true. In fact, some days I dread it. I just don't enjoy entertaining and lifting and disciplining and cleaning and refereeing at the end of a long work day. I'd much rather be on the couch, reading or sleeping or writing or romping with the Hubby.

And on the weekends, I'd much rather be out...glammed up, out late, dancing and drinking. Or, not. Maybe in my pj's, staying in, sleeping in, and doing absolutely nothing. But that's the whole thing: with parenting, you just don't have that many choices. You don't have that many opportunities. You usually don't get to choose whether to go out or stay in. Because most nights (at least around my house, anyways), we are getting through all the Requirements: baths and meals and toys and to-do's, and then...oh, we are sooooo done. Done. Exhausted. Get into bed and just barely watch the latest episode of Rachel Zoe (or Monday Night Football, depending on which one of Us we are talking about).

And another thing...you know those uber-cool pics of Gwen Stefani and Heidi Klum, all chic and thin and fabulous, with a kid in one arm and a Starbucks Venti and the latest It Bag on the other? That is SO not motherhood. I mean, I could look like that too if I had a nanny (or 3) and a hair person and tons of money and did I mention a nanny? Real motherhood is not glamorous. It is not chic. It is, usually, messy and wrinkly and bags under the eyes. And if you happen to be having a good day...your hair is done and your nails are polished and you've got your sparkly hoop earrings...then chances are you're extra tired from the effort that took AND there is an even better chance that your 1-year-old will tear out, at the very least, the hoop earring, if not the whole earlobe.

So now here I am, 4 years and 2 kids later. And I don't have to work at not being The Mommy. In fact, it is the Wife, Friend, and Self that is constantly pushing and battling against the Mommy...all the Me's fighting for equal time. Except no matter how violent that fight gets, the Mommy usually wins. I admit, it's not by choice. I'd like so much to see myself as a woman who happens to have kids, instead of a mom who happens to have a life, but I can't. The truth of the matter is that when you become a mom, it becomes a major part of who you are...whether you want it to or not.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rule #472 of Parenting: Never Let Your Guard Down

So...I was going through The Bedtime Routine with Aidan Kai this evening and trying to rush through it (as usual) when the thought occurred to me that the days of him snuggling like a baby in my arms are numbered. I looked down at this big fat baby, his pudgy fingers clutching his bottle...his cheeks dimpling with each slurp...his sleepy eyes looking up at me from underneath his damp mop of curls...and I decided, right then and there, to enjoy the moment. To really take it in. To savor it. To savor him.

So...as he finished his bottle, I snuggled him up onto my shoulder and rocked him, humming and patting his back, inhaling his Cheerios-Johnson's-Baby-Shampoo-Yummy-Still-New-Person-Smell, and I admit...I was loving this moment. I was incredibly aware of the fact that this is the beginning of my favorite baby stage (just turned one) and this is really It. No more babies after this. So I decided, right then and there, to start enjoying The Bedtime Routine with The Last Baby.

And just as I made that decision...just as I felt the warmth of his little breath on my ear, his tummy inhaling deeply against my chest...he puked. No warning. No gagging sound. No coughing. Just puke. Thick, stinky, curdled puke. All over my neck, my shoulder, down my back and all the way to my thighs...to settle nicely into the crevices between the rocking chair's seat cushion and its base...

Well then, I suppose it's a good thing I had decided to start enjoying the bedtime routine, because it was back to the bathtub all over again....

Monday, September 21, 2009

"You take after your Mommy." Is this a good thing?

It can be heartbreaking when you realize your child takes after you...has inherited your worst traits, the ones you have to work every damn day to repress.

I think for the most part, people would describe me as bold, adventurous, a bit in-your-face. All of that is, in fact, true. But I've said it before: I'm really just a big chicken. I'm scared. A lot. Often. I get anxious about things. I worry. I fret. I over-analyze. When I want to try something new, I think about all the things that could go wrong.

And then I do it anyway.

See? There is the repression. It can be exhausting, spending so much of your time trying to go against your nature (or, possibly, nurture, since my parents spent most of my childhood trying to protect me from the world and most of my adult life trying to protect me from myself).

I don't want my child to grow up like this. I don't want him to have to live life, often, afraid or worried or anxious. I want him to be like his Dad: balls to the wall (as he'd say...sorry), no worries, just get out there and do it. All of it. Any of it.

But as Ben is growing up, I am realizing more and more that he is more and more like me. And I hate that. I hate that he thinks before he leaps (literally). I hate that he worries about being the slowest on his soccer team. I hate that he absolutely refused--the fear evident on his little face--to go down the slides at his own birthday party.

Over the last few days he has developed a new anxiety: peeing in his underwear. Mind you, this kid has been potty trained for a year or so. He has been sleeping through the night with no issues for months. Now, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he is obsessing over going to the bathroom...constantly. (Yes, we took him to the doctor.) We have tried both ends of the spectrum: from paying close attention and discussing it to all-out nonchalance and ignoring. But last night, after almost an hour of constant trips to the bathroom, we had to step in. We tried to explain he was "empty." We tried to be soothing. We tried to be intimidating. In the end, we had to give him an ultimatum ("choice" as we, parents, call it): either you go to bed now as is, or you go to bed with pull-ups on. He went to bed...after several minutes of a full-blown panic attack. To see his little face so out of control, so frightened by his own anxieties...it was heartbreaking...and remarkably familiar.

"He takes after you, Liz."

I hear it often.

He is stubborn, strong-willed, verbal, and a thinker. He loves the spotlight, likes to make people laugh, and can negotiate you into thinking it was your idea. He likes order, routine, and rules. And when he has an idea he likes, good luck trying to change it.

It can be hard to see yourself in your child. It's like yet another reminder, everyday, of how important it is to be brave. Bold. Free. Because now that I'm a mom, I don't just want that for myself. I want it for him, too.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Birthday...now go to time out!

So I crossed over to the Other Side. I did it. I became One Of Those Moms. Goodie bags and all...

We threw Ben his first "real" birthday party: rented location, invitations, and yes, goodie bags. The whole idea started because this was his first birthday since he'd started school, and he wanted to invite his classmates.

"Let's keep it really simple," we said.

Yeah. Simple. Really simple.


Like just about everything else about motherhood, the birthday party situation did not quite turn out the way I had expected.

I thought Party Day would be...
1. Easy
2. Cheap
3. All-out excitement and happy hysteria from Ben

Instead, it was...
1. A tad difficult (Why the hell can't people RSVP?)
2. Expensive (Who knew goodie bags could run you the equivalent of a good pair of stilettos on sale?)
3. Some excitement (He basically went from gift to gift with little to no reaction)and not necessarily the happy kind of hysteria (He ended up in time-out DURING his party)

I think, in part, it was the inexperience of 2 parents planning a party for the first time. He was tired from having gone to bed late the night before and we scheduled his party way too late in the day. He was over-everything: over-tired, over-stimulated, and over-whelmed.

And somehow, I got caught up in it all: not only did I obsess over the silly little goodie bags, I made Hubby and Little Brother (and me) wear matching Batman shirts to go with the theme.

Yeah, I gave in. And wonderful man that I'm married to, he allowed me to pull him in right along with me. So we WERE those cornball parents with the thematic outfits, yelling and screaming at our birthday boy for not "being nice" to his guests, jumping around in the bouncehouses along with the kids.
We used to be cool, I swear.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cue the theme song from "Pretty in Pink"

The first day of 7th grade I wore a pink knitted top, stretchy jeans, and the most perfect pair of bubble gum pink pointy toe flats ever.

I loved those shoes. The whole outfit was based on the shoes. Those shoes made me feel special. And that morning as I walked out the door to catch the bus, I felt pretty darn cute for the first day of junior high...all because of my shoes. (See? The love affair/obsession started early...)

But then I got on the bus. And the teasing started almost immediately. The 9th graders who started snickering didn't even know me, but apparently, the fact that they were all in Keds and casual tops was enough to make me their morning entertainment. I did my best to hide my shoes under bus seats and desks for the rest of the day.

I never wore the pink shoes to school again, (although, truthfully, that didn't solve a thing, since those girls just found other things to harass me about), but I wore them so often everywhere else that by the time I got rid of them, the pointy toes were scuffed and peeling.

Fast forward 23 years.

I find these:
A few shades darker and a tad more pointy, but the minute I put them on in the store, I was that teenager again. The memories of that first day made me chuckle a bit and mentally sigh in relief: Thank God I didn't turn out the way I was as a kid...insecure, intimidated, and easily influenced.

Somewhere along my 30's I started to really fit in within my own skin. Some of it came with age and experience, some of it came from the sweat (literally) and tears (also, sometimes literally) of running, biking, and doing things that scared me to death, but some of it came with motherhood: I was so worried about losing Me when I became Mama that I ended up finding myself along the way. I found time to do things that challenged me, that made me stronger, braver, better, that made me proud to be who I am...and that person is not "just a mom."

Now, if I were to get on a bus filled with girls who are dressed totally differently, I'd sigh in relief, jump right on, and maybe even prop my pink pointy toe flats up on the seat in front of me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I thought the baby in the family was supposed to get babied...

When we decided to have a second child, we swore we'd do everything the same way: we'd narrate everything that was happening so he'd develop his vocabulary, we'd have the same bedtime routines, we'd give the second as much attention as we gave the first. We knew it'd be tough, but we felt like we owed it to the second child.

It wasn't tough.

It was impossible.

This became glaringly apparent to me when I looked down at Aidan Kai last night, hair still wet from his bath, pj's on, Mickey socks on his feet, holding onto the refrigerator with one hand to keep himself steady while he held his bottle with the other hand. This is how, very often, my second child drinks his evening bottle...on his own as he wanders around the house, alternating between crawling, cruising, playing, and sitting, lugging his bottle with him. This is often when I make the lunches for the next day or clean up the kitchen. This does not even count as multitasking; this is simply taking advantage of your child's ability to do something on his own.

My first child? Bedtime bottles were part of The Ritual. In fact, it was the last bottle he was weaned off of after 18 months simply because I was not ready or willing to stop giving him a bottle at night. I felt it was the only thing I had left of his babyhood and I treasured holding him in my arms at the end of the day, watching him as he slurped up his milk. I enjoyed the bedtime routine.

The second child? Poor thing...after he has dirtied up his pj's crawling and scooting all over the kitchen and living room floors, and finished up his milk himself, one of us scoops him up, attempts to read him a book or two, and plops him in the crib after a kiss and a hug...all while mentally wondering how much longer this could possibly take. Now, I endure the bedtime routine.

I could say I feel guilty about it, but most days I don't. (Okay, I admit it: there was a definite twinge last night when I looked down at him and saw him standing there, sucking on his bottle, looking up at me so expectantly.) The truth of the matter is, he doesn't seem any worse for the wear. He is a happy, jolly, tough little kid. He is, in fact, the complete opposite of his high-strung, type A, sensitive older brother. (Hmmmm...maybe devoting all of your energies on a kid is not necessarily such a good thing?)

Older brother? Never climbed on stuff. The house was fully child-proofed. There was someone watching, guiding, teaching all of the time. Baby brother? Climbs on top of everything: his brother's bed, the step stool, his toys, the toilet. Yesterday we found him sitting inside a kitchen drawer. The house is barely child-proofed and there is someone watching, guiding, teaching only some of the time...on a good day.

The neat thing is that Aidan Kai is pretty resilient. You can see it already. Yesterday he fell head first off of his zebra riding toy (climbing, see paragraph above), and he just kinda lay there for a second, then got right back up and went about his business. If that happened to Ben? Well, let's just say that he never would've climbed on the zebra to begin with.

The truth is, I kinda like that he gets into stuff. (I know, I know...that statement's gonna come back to bite me in the ass.) It's kinda fun to see this little boy who figures things out for himself, who can find a way to move 3 of Ben's giant toy bins out of the way so he can get to the one toy that he wants that fell behind them. When left to fend for himself (figuratively speaking...I mean, we're not neglecting the kid), he can get into, onto, under, and behind almost anything. He has no other choice. His older brother is constantly trying to run the show and circles around him. Aidan has already learned, as so many of us second children do, that sometimes he has to take matters into his own hands. And he does. All the time.

So yes, my second child is definitely not getting the same attention my first one did. But maybe he's getting something else. He's already figured out how to stand out amongst this family of Alphas. He's learned how to problem solve. He's learned how to entertain himself and how to get a rise out of Mom, Dad, and especially Big Brother. He's learned how to make us--and himself--laugh. He's learned how to keep himself busy and happy. He's learned how to bounce back--sometimes literally--from all the messes he's gotten himself into. And we already know that he's learned how to feed himself a bottle of milk at the end of a long day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Letting go = Gaining control

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."

That is the banner hanging over the white board in my classroom. It is one of those cheesy, supposedly-motivating banners you buy at the teacher store.

The secret?

I didn't put it up for my students. I put it up for me.

The banner faces my desk, and I try to read it...really read it...everyday. And you know what? Attitude really does make a big difference.

I can be a pretty glass-half-empty kinda girl. I get really frustrated (indignant, my husband says) when people behave in "inappropriate" ways. When someone does not do his job properly and it then affects me, I can go around pissed off for days. But somewhere along the line I have realized that my indignance, my rantings and ravings, my general pissiness does not change a thing. The problem is still there. The incompetent coworker is still there. People still do and say the wrong things. So I've realized I have a choice: I can deal with the situation and be pissed off or I can deal with the situation and not let it get to me. Either way, I have to deal with the damned situation. My anger does not make it go away. So, I'm learning to "go with the flow"...to "relax"...to "be positive"...to "not stress": all things I've been told and scoffed at.

My first week back to work, I was constantly conscious of my attitude. I walked around trying to be a light of positivity. I almost couldn't stand myself. When people made snippy comments (as co-workers so often can), I did not throw out a zinger (as I so often do...and do well). When stuff went wrong, I shrugged it off and either solved it myself or ignored it if it could not be solved. I smiled at everyone. I made small talk. I was cheerful and pleasant. And exhausted.

I think I was more tired from trying to be so damn positive all the time than I was from actually setting up an entire classroom, going back to work, and dealing with my 2 kids while Hubby was out of town. I felt like the pressure to be positive and stress-free was a literal weight on my shoulders. At the end of the day, I felt like a smoker who was trying to quit: I just wanted one puff of a sarcastic, negative complaint.

But as the days have gone on and I've gotten more used to the idea of not complaining, of being more positive, of not letting things get to me, I'm starting to really notice "those people" more and more: the ones who sit around the lunch table and complain about everything, the stuff which warrants complaints and even the stuff that doesn't. I used to be one of those people. I'd join in with them, always feeling justified: 'See? Everyone else feels the same way I do!' But now that I've removed myself from that talk, I'm realizing I don't even like being around those people. I walk away from them feeling like the life has been zapped right out of me. I don't want to be those people anymore. And the most amazing thing is that I thought it was easier, more natural, to complain and get stressed and pissed about stuff. Now I'm realizing the exact opposite is true: I feel like I've been liberated. I am free of that feeling I'd get in the pit of my stomach when I was indignant about something, when I made a list of all the things that were going wrong, when I expected the worst from people.

I had heard it before: sometimes if you want to be happy you just need to be happy. Oh, so simple. Oh, so cheesy. But oh, so true. Being the control freak that I am, I was always upset because I couldn't control situations, people, circumstances. But what I've realized is that I am in control...of myself, my reactions, my attitude. And I'm just now starting to understand what a difference my big attitude was making...