What Does the Old Mom Say?

I spent a long time on the phone with my cousin– weeks out from delivering her first child–watching my eyes roll in the mirror.  Then a wince.

At myself and the words my brain kept pushing out of my mouth.  I started remembering about being a new mom and then thinking about how I’ve been to new moms.

Ladies, do y’all remember being pregnant with your first child?  The unsolicited bad advice, such as when my Nanny recommended I keep smoking to help my nerves; the unsolicited horror stories, such as the one co-worker that talked about things like 5th degree tear and infected stitches.  And if those don’t have enough hot air to raise your balloon, then there’s the Let Me Tell You What You Have to Do Because I’ve Done This Before advice.

Us Old Moms, we can’t help it can we?  Most (not all) of us don’t mean it the way it sounds; we certainly don’t mean to sound as if we are—or were– in any way competent or infallible.

New Moms, we don’t mean to get so excited about your impending birth of those teeny-tiny babies; the mewling creatures that demand everything from you and, in return, hand over an ocean of rapidly rising responsibility.  Maybe that excitement for you lies in a break from our gaping responsibility of not-tiny, slightly-smelly, limit-testing, hormone-laden (or worse– grown and gone) children.

We don’t mean to suggest to you, New Mom, that you are somehow wrong or abnormal for feeling a certain measure of ambivalence about the impending expulsion of the child from your womb. That place where the vast majority of women keep Baby safe and warm with very little extra effort.  Old Moms don’t mean to demand that you be excited by the irrevocable life-altering circumstance of parenting—even while telling you all the reasons you should be terrified.  We don’t mean to sound affronted when your smile seems strained, or to at all suggest that you are somehow less prepared for motherhood for feeling this way.

New Moms, we don’t mean to forget– and the further away from the demand of an infant the more obnoxious we’ll sound.  I still remember how hard– how ridiculously, freakishly, annoyingly hard it was to mediate between logic and reality. Logically, I kept telling myself how easy Home Economics and Motherhood should be, even when my reality resembled an ugly mix of Intervention and Hoarders.

I kept waiting to feel the magic-fairy enchantment and became increasingly more depressed, guilty, and angry for the lack– both times.

Magic Fairy Enchantment

I can tell New Moms that it’s cool (and sane) to be scared of childbirth.  But that there is a finite end.  Women don’t labor for 4 days anymore; modern medicine is good to us in that way.

I can tell New Moms that it’s not tapping out by getting pain meds; that no secret society delivers a special medal for making it all the way through naturally. I can tell New Moms that my (unplanned) natural childbirth with Elliot hurt to a degree that cannot be described, but that A) my very small kidney stone hurt way more, and B) 30 minutes of IM-GONNA-DIE was still better than the 5 days of stitches that felt IM-GONNA-DIE every time I had to go Number 2.  And that neither one mattered much a month later.

I can tell New Mom that sharing L&D stories—amazing or awful—with other women is something she’ll do for a long time.

I can tell New Moms that my overall attitude toward sleep was one of by any means necessary—because as soon as they stop asking “are you ready for that baby?” so will begin “is baby sleeping through the night?”.

I can tell New Moms that it’s safe to co-sleep and that my successful easy-nursing-in-my-sleep with the one kid was rejected in entirety by the second kid.   I can also tell them I ignored those that worried about smothering the baby–they were wrong.  After all the generation that worried (MOM!) about my co-sleeping let me ride without carseat, and with a chain-smoking father.

I can tell New Moms that I breastfed both kids, neither of them for a full year.  I can ALSO tell New Moms that breastfeeding wouldn’t have lasted even that long had its success depended on a breastpump.

I can tell New Moms that yes, Breast is Best—biology not judgement—but that does not, in any way, imply Formula is Fail.

Breast is Best

I can tell New Moms the value of ear plugs (they work) when compared to that of stretch mark repair (sorry, no).  Babies process tone of voice and facial expression.  If you want to tell Baby how you feel about colic with nicely spoken words in the dark… Enough said.

I can tell New Moms that feeling guilty goes with parenting; decide to OWN it.  Sometimes you’ll deserve to feel guilty, most of the time you will not.

I can tell New Moms that Old Moms have the luxury of selective memory.  Any Old Mom that acts as if she’s never spent a night frozen with doubt about her skills is either lying, or not doing a very good job.

I can tell New Moms that vaccinations are good and flame-retardant footie pajamas are bad.  The advantage to vaccines is that whole no-disease-thing; I’ve yet to see any pajamas that prevent whooping cough.  Avoid toxic chemicals responsibly.

Shrug, I’m an Old Mom—offering unsolicited advice… Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow!

 

 

Living Room Displays: Child’s Art

 

The Case for Displaying Imperfection

The case for Displaying Imperfection in the Living Room.  Yes, even your child’s art.

Last week I enjoyed having a man-cold.  And by man-cold I mean, ermahgerd-snot-can’t-breath-is-this-sinus-cancer cold and by enjoy, I mean laid in bed trying to remove mucous from my nose with the infant snot-sucker thing.  I whined and reclined, a lot.   Which, when that other parent’s home is fine, and less fine the rest of the time. Not-sick-Elliot became independently motivated and, um, created things.  Like this Halloween ghost I found taped by the front door in my living room. 

Ghostly

Since he started the morning of October 1st with, “where are the decorations? It’s HALLOWEEN MONTH Y’ALL” I’m not surprised to find evidence of his enthusiasm.   Not surprised, and frankly quite pleased.  I like holidays, sure, but I don’t drag all of this festivity out for myself.  Nope.

Just Hanging Around

Okay, maybe a few for myself.  For example, my window eyeballs.

The Windows Have Eyes

And fine, I’m the one that taped the place mat on the bearded dragon cage.

Even the Beardies

Some of these have become tradition.  Like the milk-jug, curtain-sheer ghost that hangs by the front door.  I never intended for this to be permanent, but here you go. This isn’t really my holiday, ya know?

Curtain Ghost

I never intended to hang skeletons in the shrubbery.  Have you noticed how very little children care about adult intentions?

Yarned Yard Skeletons

 

Coloring pages decorate random spots all over my house.  Kids with access to both tape and push pins, and a mother that thinks children should see their art all over the place.

Come on– you know you like the polished pinterest (or more accurately– what Martha’s been doing for a really long time)? 


Sure, theoretically.  I mean, I like to look at other people’s pinable houses, but that level of effort (both in the doing and the maintaining) just isn’t compatible with my life. Or my parenting style.

In the way I’ve come about each Really Important Life Lesson, I first needed an epic fail.

It’s October 2011, and the boys and I are unpacking the Halloween decoration bin. When I pull out Zach’s Halloween chain from the previous year I flinch, and glance over in time to see his smile wilt.  We stand there, both staring at this orange and black construction paper chain, remembering how frustrated we had been that day. Him trying to cut and staple–for the first time– and me blisteringly impatient with the sloppiness of his scissor work, his careless stapling.

He was three (one month to four),  but he was three at the time.  Three.  And I was angry with him for not trying hard enough.  I remember snapping at him, “you’re not even trying to make it look nice!”  More importantly, I absolutely remember the look on his face.

He. Was. Three.  And I was old enough to not be that invested in the outcome of construction paper.

But there it is, every October when I pull out this chain (last year he added a small one, I’m going to repeat that this year), I’m reminded that constant criticism of children murders their creativity.  Kills their self-confidence.  Might ruin a future artist’s dream.

The artistic plane, unlike the dinner table, is an amazingly easy place to praise and support your child.  Really. Stupidly. Simple.

Unchained Melody

And this is why you will find an odd piece of what might first assume is trash accidentally stuck to the door.  Because that’s not trash at all– that, my friends, is Elliot’s reduce, reuse, recycle ghost.

Ghosts Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

How to Love Reptiles

The reptilian members of the animal kingdom always grossed me out.

Then I gave birth to Elliot; code name– The Lizard King.  And now I’m learning how to love reptiles.

I Am The Lizard KingOne ill-advised promise later and we’re elbow deep in cricket shipments– fed ex brings 1000 every 2 weeks.  Of course baby bearded dragons eat as much as baby-everything-elses.  Of course.

Luckily–and unexpectedly– they have a lot of personality.

Wanna Ride
Biker Lizard

Lots of personality and very little choice about prop placement.

Lizard TakeDown

I mean, c’mon now.  That’s just funny.

Scared Now

We even finished their rocking bearded dragon lair– but writing about that is lots of words.  Words and formatting and other things for which I currently lack motivation.   So instead I’ll just leave you with this:

Psst Behind You

 

 

My Teacher Said

“To have our parents show us video about what happened on September 11th.  Okay, mom?”

Edit: I sincerely doubt that the teacher delivered this exact message.  I’m sure it was more along the “ask you parents” route and my kid is pre-programmed to request a youtube education.

In a word, no.  No way will there be any video watching of 9/11. Joel pried me off the couch and away from CNN somewhere around the end of October 2011, marking the last of my obsessive watching of news coverage.  Hyperfocus and national tragedy just don’t get on well together.

I should have looked up more information on how to explain September 11th to children.  After last year, I should have been more prepared, should have known better than to think I had just one more year.

Defining terrorist, explaining why they’d want to fly planes into people, describing the resulting change in America without the many layers of my well-nourished cynicism, and revisiting symbolism’s importance in human culture?

See, I normally do an okay job with this– I’m reasonably good at peeling away all the extra adjectives and keeping information at an age-appropriate level.  For example, I’ve never mentioned Zoroaster during religious conversations.

But I struggle with this day.  Because September 11, 2001 was the “I made it 6 months” after my father’s rather abrupt death (some of you I promised warnings: that’s the make-you-cry-post).  I started that day steeped in symbolic grief– and the attacks just made it MORE.

I struggle and I didn’t even know anybody that died.  Not a single person, not a single friend-of-a-friend.   It feels like the depth of my emotion is transferral. Raw.  But not legitimately raw.  And because they aren’t raw just because of the attacks, it makes me feel fake to think about it too much.

He asked to see pictures.  And I know him– I know if I hadn’t found something for his brain to see, he’d just go find it himself.  There are some pictures– you know the ones– that remain as vivid in my memory as the first day.  I don’t want him to see those.

He’s 6. His brother is 4.  Their history doesn’t include those images.

But it’s symbology, right?  The smoke pouring from those two buildings.  It’s hate, it’s disgust. It’s religious intolerance.  It’s patriotism.  It’s human spirit.  It’s retaliation.  It’s war.  It’s the willing sacrifice of personal freedoms.

It’s complicated.

Honor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Epic Battle: Boys vs Girls

Over a dinner of home-made (bag-removed) chicken nuggets and frozen peas, this conversation happened.

“Mom, some of the girls say boys are lame.  And the boys say girls are lame.  But I know that’s not true– because you take me to Moral Monday and explain stuff to me All.The.Time.  And  all the books that you read to me about suffer-bridge (suffrage) and that other book** from the 70s- remember?   

Girls aren’t lame because they are girls.  But boys aren’t gross because they are boys.”

I interjected– “equal doesn’t mean better”.

“Right. So I’m stuck in the middle in this world war at the Elemen-tar-y school.  And I just keep yelling ‘we’re equality’, but not many of them are listening to me. It’s just stupid.”  

It’s that simple– for him all of this gender bias means nothing more than a waste of precious, adult-free, recess time.

He’ll be seven in a few months and this conversation pretty much wiped out 2 months of back-talking, eye-rolling, and limit-testing.  I can deal with that if it means he’ll walk out into the world telling people that bigotry and misogyny just wastes precious time.

Though I have to temper my immediate urge to squeal, Fight the Power, darling with:

It’s not just about allowing the limit-testing at home to encourage free-thinking– yes, one has to happen for the other to develop.  But part– a HUGE part– of learning independent thinking has to include understanding the consequences of your actions.

Doing what’s right over what’s generally accepted by the masses often includes a backdraft. Deciding that the consequences are worth it encompasses a giant part of developing morality (for us all, right?)

Then, with his face smeared with milk and talking through a mouth full of half-chewed chicken nugget, he tells a fart joke and calls me a hipster.  The hipster thing I corrected immediately; I am hippie.  There’s a difference.

Anyway, I document my frustration with child-rearin’ a lot and those are fair moments. But tonight I looked at my kid, with the weight of an entire first grade’s gender war riding on his shoulders, and my heart… My heart just went kerthump.

Somewhere after the start of this conversation, but before he got peas stuck up both nostrils, Elliot realized that girls might not be so bad, since– you know– mom’s one.

**My mom kept many of my old childhood books.  Everybody Knows That by Susan Pearson, originally written in 1978, remains one of my favorite feminist tomes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Booger Challenge

Electricity danced along my neurons, my lungs struggled for oxygen.  My eyes bulged and my lips parted in preparation for the discordant scream that would shatter the peaceful silence.

WHO WIPED BOOGERS ON THE BATHROOM WALL?  

Yep, on the wall– right above the full roll of toilet paper– sat dual booger volcanoes.

First it was a numb shock, like what the hell is that on the wall? But then? Then it feels like measured deliberateness.  Either my oldest child* is using the scientific method as he analyzes The Average Time To Wall Cleaning, or he’s founded the Mucous Mafia and the dried boogers are my horse head in the bed.

Extreme?  Meh, there is just no other explanation for this sudden co-mingling of my walls and his snot.  One does not spend 6 years putting boogers in the trash can to suddenly start wall-wiping them.

*How can I be certain that it’s the Oldest Small Person? Because the youngest one is smart enough to eat the evidence.  God, I puked in my mouth a little bit. Kids (and 22-year-old baseball players) are so damn gross.

After I delivered a horrified–and pants-less, because who has time to put on pants when dried boogers sit crusting RIGHT ABOVE the toilet paper— reminder of why boogers belong in toilet paper, tissue, or trash cans and never, ever on walls, I thought we were good.

Several quiet, booger-free weeks passed.  I even noticed a reduction in booger eating from the youngest one.  And triple bonus, my husband, utterly embarrassed by my posting of the crystallized pee, really ramped up the toilet seat etiquette.

But then tonight…this. On the sink?  It feels like a challenge.  It feels like broccoli-based dinners for a week.  It feels like… saving all of the wall-dried boogers in a jar. For his senior year in high school.

Boogers

 

 

Dirty Jobs- Parent Edition

I’m no longer irritated by the knee-jerk look of distaste from non-parents over the foul reality that is Having Children.  A person just can’t appreciate the conscious choice to catch projectile vomit IN YOUR CUPPED HANDS until doing so with a child for whom you feel deep affection.

Likewise, the choice to clean up other. . . Gross Stuff. . . becomes about two things:

  1. will this cause my children nightmares?
  2. will the Gross Stuff be so amazing that they bring it in my house so I can see it?

That dead bunny in front of the outside trash can?  The decision had already been made to leave Thumper for when JB got home; but then…

Dear Mama Bird:  Three times rain washed your nest away before it stayed put long enough for you to lay the eggs.  THREE.  So I’m sort of blaming you for having to retrieve your drowned baby birds from the top of my rain barrel.

And also– I may never eat chicken again.  

A friend of mine recently told me a story that involved a car, vomit, and 21 pounds of baking soda.

I wiped snot off Zach’s face with my bare hand in front of my newly married neighbor.    I was a little post-postpartum-y and apparently a lot insane.  Two-ish odd years of parenting and I had never before used my hand as kleenex, so I have to attribute that day’s action as a sort of twisted self amusement.

I wonder if neighbor dude realizes why I giggle every time I see him outside?

So you see this other layer to parenting? It’s all Dirty Jobs without the camera.  Or Mike Rowe.

All of this got me to thinking today–  what if birth control ads were a little more real?

The Unsung Choice of Birth Control Use.

The Unsung Choice of Birth Control Use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Always Optimistic

But when I am, it’s a delusion.

Optimism

Yeah. Um. A week before spring break in MARCH, my kids got sick and my Superhuman, Worked Retail Handling Money Drenched with Gym Sock and Cleavage Sweat did not protect me.

Then Spring Break started and we built a buggy/bike garage. I estimated it would take a day. Since the structure still lacks a door “FINISHED” is simply not true.

And it’s May.

buggy and bike garage

Then there was the onset of The Great Basement Clean Out, 2013 edition.

The Great Basement Cleanout

Why basement clean out? Book, you were writing? Two (three) reasons.

  1. the untapped potential of 1178 square feet of space that doesn’t require air conditioning.
  2. I had to sort, rearrange, toss, and clean the whole thing so I could tape off A Fort of One’s Own. Let’s just leave it at I thought I’d be done (back then I wanted walls) the week after Spring Break.
  3. it was looking a little hoarders.

It’s May and AFOO is done.  Who needs walls?

We also adopted (stole from the wilds of my mother in law’s porch) a new pet, aptly named Sir Walter TreeFroggy.   That the frog-dude rocks a color coordinated monster truck in his terrarium was all Elliot.

Monster Truckn Tree Frog

Our anti-vole glue trap caught a 5 lined skink.  He (she?) enjoyed an extra two weeks of well-loved life.

58126_10201022687591052_1294174378_n

This kid will be done with kindergarten in another week.  I can’t be the only mother that actually looks forward to the end of school?

zach

What else? Um, probably a lot, but who can remember these things? I am killing the Bonbon Ninja– I simply don’t have time to do a different blog. Really, what was I thinking?

Oh right; Optimism vs. Delusion.

 

 

 

Momsrising and National Women’s Healthcare Week

Lean In

I wrote a piece about parenting with ADHD for Momsrising in support of National Women’s Healthcare Week.  You should go read it, not just because I wrote it, but also because the impact of momsrising on  law-creation (and the potential for even MORE impact) is astounding.

Momsrising.org

 

You can inform yourself about their goals here.  You can sign up for free email alerts “on timely issues like health care, flexible work options, paid family leave, child care, living wages.”   You can take action here.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day 2013

Mother’s Day, 2013, the sixth year I get this one for my own.

Reading the history of the Mother’s Day holiday in America, understanding the motivation in Julia Ward Howe’s always makes me…rueful.

That this day brings pain to as many people it brings joy hurts my heart in sympathy. It’s hard to watch the giddy folks when you are miserable- whether it be the loss of a child, or a loss of a parent.

I get it. For the many years before I had my own biological distractions, Father’s Day was that holiday for me. Part of my unrepentant selfishness on Mother’s Day has to be the result of how singularly I’ve shifted the focus on Father’s Day from my Dad to Joel.

To my own Mom– the fact that your Mother’s Day card is still upstairs, stampless, does not reflect my love and appreciation. It does reflect my inability to face a post office on a Saturday. And a week full of kid-related obligations, followed by deliberately going in public after stamps made me feel…postal.

So I have carved this holiday into being about me in a way that is slightly tactless.

    JB: “Do you want me to buy that Kindle for Mother’s Day? Or maybe those cowboy boots?”
    Me: “I want the three of you to go away in the morning and not come back until at least 3pm.”
    JB: “But…”
    Me: “No. Really. Y’all have got to get the hell out of here and leave me alone. I need 6 full hours where I can blast my music without explaining why no one should repeat the lyrics. To be silent so the thoughts in my head can escape before they succeed in choking me to death. That’s right, my thoughts are becoming corporeal. Never good, Joel.

I want to “lock” myself in A Fort of My Own, only getting distracted on my own terms. If I have to spend another day* being anyone but Just Stephanie I’m gonna fucking explode.

Sounds a little psychotic, yeah? Perhaps some anger management issues? Meh, I know myself, what I need, and how much I can take before I crack. Just as I have explained the fact that I drip sweat from May to August in this state– letting the toxins out technically makes me healthier.

This morning as I listened to the… nothing… I tried to even make myself feel a little guilty about it.

I’m thrilled to admit I was not successful. And that I laughed way too hard at many of these e-cards.

May this be a guilt-free, peaceful weekend for you all– regardless of how (or if) you celebrate.

*If one of them had woken up sick, I’d have swallowed that bubble for another day, because that’s what you do for those that you love–especially your children. Or if my good friend needs my internet searching skills. These things don’t count.