Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Girl I Got

Dear Little D:

You are turning 3 this weekend.  How did that happen?  I remember when you were born and we barely made in to the hospital in time.  My main memory is in the parking garage of the hospital, biting your father's shoulder through his green padded vest because the pain was so bad.  You shot out, literally with on time for no epidural or even an IV, soaking Dr. M's brand new Nikes because there was no time for shoe covers.  I actually called Grandma and when she asked "Did you get a room sweetie?" I was like "It's done.  She's here." You came into this world at lightning speed and you haven't stopped since.

I was so happy to have a daughter, especially one as charming as you.  You were a great sleeper and then you weren't.  You had a smile that took over your whole perfect face.  You were constantly stroking my hand, really anyone's hand, and you loved to snuggle.  You crawled at 6 months and walked at nearly ten and I forgave you for all that and the fact that you can scale counters, dressers and closets like a little spider with suction cups for hands.

I dreamed of all the things were would do together.  You would love to dress up like a princess and we'd play Barbie and I'd get to put bows in your hair.  If only I had discussed my expectations with you before deciding on this, I would be much less surprised right now. You, even at age three, insist on wearing your Mets shirt and old mesh shorts belonging to your brother.  You ask to wear this ensemble every day.  You fight me every time I suggest your wear a dress. You gave away your Barbies because, as you say, "she stinks" and you refuse to let me put bows in your hair. I can't believe it.  Your one concession to anything in your hair is headbands like that terrible glow-in-the-dark one that Aunt Vicky got you from Justice.

You are not the girl I thought I'd be getting when I learned I was having a girl.  When people say you are beautiful you frown and say "No!" as if it's an insult.  I've stopped calling things pretty and started calling them "awesome" because there's a higher chance you might like them.   You love things that are "cool" and "rock and roll".  You took the play ironing board I got you, ripped off the legs and took it into the shower with you so you could surf, like Daddy.

No, Little are not what I expected in a daughter and yet you are so much more.  You are as tough as you are compassionate. When it thunders you worry "Will Big A get home from school safely?  Is Daddy inside at work?"  You notice everything. You can already do the monkey bars and learned to pump your own swing when you turned 2.   You are definitely cool, cooler than I could ever be since I love to wear dresses (the more ruffles the better) and I collect teapots.  I've never seen a more fiercely loyal sister to your big brother and you are always talking about "our family" and how much it means to you.  You have only 4 friends you really like and you speak constantly about your love for them.  You're not a sweet little girl who plays with baby dolls and loves adorable dresses but you are a force to be reckoned with and it will serve you well one day.

I'm sorry I tried for so long to put a bow in your hair against your will.  It really doesn't matter if you wear a bow or not, I see that now. I'm sorry for the times I tried to convince you that the pale pink smocked pinafore was "rock and roll" when we both know it isn't.  I'm sorry for all the times I tried to get you to watch Dora even though you kept insisting "This is terrible."  You were right, it is.  I'm sorry for how excited I am that purple is your favorite color.  It's the only truly traditionally "girly" thing about you.

But -- thank you so much for being so different than a typical girly girl.  Thanks for being here to remind me to accept and support people as they are, not as I'd like them (or society expects them) to be.  I'm working hard to encourage you to be you, like in Little Miss Sunshine when Toni Colette  encouraged everyone to "Let Olive be Olive." I want you to know that while it was jarring at first to discover I have a tomboy for a daughter I accept you fully.

So Happy Birthday to you, my dynamo of a girl.  I got you the Etch-a-Sketch and the new Mets shirt you asked for and not the Strawberry Shortcake collection I so desperately wanted to buy you.  Or the Elsa doll, in which you have no interest.  Or My Little Ponies.  Seriously, it's cool. 

Thanks for being the living embodiment of everything that matters.  Thanks for making me realize how anti-feminist I was being by expecting you to like all the toys geared towards girls.  You should play with and wear whatever you please.   

And if your first three years are any indication you're on your way to being a strong, determined,  loving happy person and a hell of an athlete.  And I love you, just as you are.  Now let's clink our tea cups together and cheers to that!  Oh, you're running away to inspect your worm collection.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Facebook faux pas

I like Facebook for a number of reasons (one of which being it's a great way to pepper my friends with my weekly musings on this blog). 

But because don't live in a house made of lollypops at the end of a rainbow, I'm also aware that many people use Facebook to brag about their lives.  But we all know that just because it's on Facebook doesn't make something true. (Case in point, my husband's new friend's wife looks amazingly skinny in all of her Facebook photos.  I girded my loins to meet this perfect specimen of womanhood only to behold that she has the biggest ass of anyone I've ever met. How did this not translate on Facebook? I was both shocked and delighted that she was actually human.)

But back to the bragging versus sharing when it comes to personal details.  If you've shared something, i.e.; "Check out my...pregnant twin sister....giant martini the size my head........muffin I baked that looks just like Obama" should make people smile.  When you brag something "Isn't my daughter just the cutest girl in the world, eveh?...Look, my son got another A+....future president!..I have the best hubby in the whole world, much better than yours!" people generally want to punch you in the throat. However, they are more likely to roll their eyes and knock you out of their newsfeed.

But one thing I never thought about, but now I think about is that some people post photos on Facebook with the added bonus of leaving people out.  I didn't realize this until a friend pointed it out to me, but now I do.  She shared how sad she feels when parents post pictures of kids' birthday parties on Facebook and her child isn't invited.



I have been guilty of doing this in the past but you can bet my husband's friend's wife's ass I won't be doing it again.   When I posted pictures of my kids' birthday parties, it was more in the spirit of "look how awesome this cake is!" or "look how big my little boy is getting!" or even "look at all his adorable friends...surely he won't be up on the bell tower one day!"  I certainly didn't mean to make anyone feel left out, and yet in hindsight I'm sure that some people did.  Seriously, why didn't I just make it a private group?  Who wanted to see all those kids besides their own parents?  And probably Grandma, who could easily be added to a private photo album.

As our kids get older and both their (and our) social circles grow, the reality is that you can't always invite everyone.  It doesn't mean you're not friends or not friendly but seriously, do we need to rub it in each other's faces?  I tell my 6 year old son not to discuss any birthday parties he is attending on the bus or with other kids in his class because not everyone is always invited.  If we can impart such wisdom to our children, we can certainly reign in our out-of-control egos enough to restrain ourselves from putting certain things publicly on FB.  Just use a private album to share all the awesome pictures of the party with the only people who care, anyway -- the parents of the children who attended. 

So I've come up with a few rules of thumb that work for me. They may not work for you, but I've come up with them so I am never the cause of some little girl looking over her mom's shoulder on Facebook and exclaiming an anguished "Why wasn't I invited to Little D's birthday party!?" (Truthfully, because she only wants to invite her brother, her cousin and the plastic dog she calls Coco)

Family events such as pumpkin picking, cookie decorating or birthday parties are all fair game for public posting.  Kids' birthday parties where you didn't invite the whole class should perhaps be put in a private album. 

Church, sports or scouting events where everyone is welcome?  Post to the world! (You may even get more participants!)

Pictures of you in your boxers?  Please don't.

Pictures of Ryan Gosling in his boxers?  Early and often please.

The point is, I'm trying to carefully consider what I'm posting these days, before I post it.  If it's an attempt to make my life seem "oh so glamorous" (like I need to prove this...I have two small children and I'm a bookworm -- how much more rock n' roll can things get?!) or, more importantly, I think it will perhaps hurt someone's feelings, I probably will not be sharing it with the FB world.

Our FB posts, just like our actions, have consequences.  I will carefully consider my motivations in posting status updates and photos, especially when it could potentially leave someone feeling left out.  As left out as my husband's friend's wife's ass was in all of her FB photos. (But we all know she doesn't exist anyway and was just a construct invented for today's blog.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mature mamas, why hast thou forsaken me?

We are outside a bagel place, a Fellow Mommy and me. Our boys are playing on the sidewalk.  Our girls are prancing about.  Fellow Mommy is holding her sleeping 11 month old.  We are stealing some snippets of adult conversation.  It's glorious. 

A women in her mid-50s drives up and scowls at us.   I smile back.  That's my default with scowling. It's usually random and annoying enough that the person scowling skulks away.  But she holds her glare, stomps out of the car, gives us a disgusted look and busted out with:

"Maybe you should watch your kids."


"Excuse me?" I said.

"I coulda hit 'em with my car" she muttered as she lumbered towards the doorway.

"I guess if you were driving on the sidewalk!" Fellow Mom bristled.

"You should look after these kids.  That's what I had to do." the grouchy woman continued as she went in, presumably to gobble down an everything bagel with extra cream cheese. 

I felt my face got hot.  Was I not watching Big A and Little D, so enthralled was I with the adult conversation I was stealing in the middle of the day.  Did I let them run around the parking lot?  No, this was not the case, as the air karate chopping of the boys and the pirouettes the girls were doing were happening firmly on the sidewalk. 

So my next thought was that the Grouchy woman was drunk. Maybe SHE should be the one watching herself.

Or maybe she was having a bad day.

Or maybe...just maybe...could it be...did she forget how hard it is to have small children?  It seems that a number of older moms have forgotten how hard it can be to parent a young child.

They are the ones that turn around at church and glare at me when my kids drop a hymnal on the floor. 

 "I'm here!" I want to yell. "I could be sleeping in or going out for pancakes with my family that I didn't make.  At least I'm trying to give them a life based in faith!"  But I don't say that. I shush my kids and threaten to take away Wii privileges if they don't pipe down.

They are the ones that roll their eyes when my kids spill a lemonade at the WindMill.  "It's the WindMill!" I want to explain. "It's geared towards kids!  I could understand your reaction if we were at The Molly Pitcher but c'mon!"

They are the ones at Target that huff and puff if my child bumps their purse as my traveling circus is stampeding past them to get to the toy aisle.  "I'm sorry!" I say.  I apologize for myself and my children constantly.  I'm sorry for their very existence because it might inconvenience someone else.

Why am I doing this?


a.  I'm not the jerk that takes my children uninvited to parties and weddings. I never take them to a fancy restaurant, let alone after 8 pm and have them meltdown, thus ruining the nights of couples that actually did get a sitter.   I don't assume that my children's company is a precious gift to be inflicted upon everyone.

b.  Children can be loud, clumsy and spill things.  Okay?  They're kids, they're not perfect robots. I wouldn't want them to be.  They're learning and I'm trying to teach them.

c.  Most of you judging me are parents of older children.  I see them with you.  Did you forget?  Did you forget what it's like to have small children?

Because I think you forgot.

I think you forgot how tired I am because sometimes my children are up in the night with accidents, illness or nightmares.  I think you forgot that that my children are still so attached to me that sitting down to pay bills without a child wrapped around my bicep is a luxury.  I think you forgot all that and now you judge me when you used to stagger around my Nikes.

Just because your kids are preparing for college and you can go out to eat without hiring a babysitter doesn't mean that you should forget that young(ish) moms like me still struggle with the rearing of small children. 

Please don't judge me because you have amnesia regarding how hard those times were for you.  Please share with me your wisdom, because you've gone through it, and tell me it's all going to work out okay.  The next time my child melts down in the middle of Kohl's because I won't buy her a Hello Kitty sprinkler tell me you've been there and I'm doing a great job.  I need to hear that.

You don't know how much I need to hear that from a woman who has gone before me and lived to tell the tale.

And please watch where you're driving next time when there are small children running about.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Steve Jobs I Am Not

Unlike Vanilla Ice, I try not to do anything to the extreme.  Technology is no exception. I don't swear off Facebook (obviously) but nor do I track my every move and meal.  For a combined 45 minutes a day FB is amusing, fun and occasionally informative.

There's an article flying around (I saw it on Facebook, actually) that not only did Steve Jobs' kids never use an iPad while he was alive but that other tech professionals severely limit their kids' screen time. I had to tear myself away from FB and do some thinking. Is technology really as addictive as heroin as the article states?  The piece went onto say that if you remove all screen time "your kids will hate you for it right now but thank you for it someday."  Oookay.

I set limits, I do.

My kids, aged 6 and almost 3 are banned from using their hand-me-down Wii on weekdays.  Not that this affects the 3 year old since she usually dumps her controller in the back of her toy fire truck and drives it out of the room each time her brother plays.

Weekends we try and limit video games to about 45 minutes per day. I feel pretty good about all this, but during the week I've been known to let my son watch a video or two on my laptop (Either Mario or Minecraft) and my daughter definitely watches tv...usually while I'm sitting with her trying (unsuccessfully) to get work done.  The Jobs' anti-technology stance when it pertained to their kids spooked me so I decided to try taking away ALL screen time yesterday and watching the fun.

I picked the wrong week to give up drinking.

I blurted out the bad news when I picked up Big A from the bus stop.

"Can I watch a Minecraft video after I do my homework?" he asked as was his custom as we meandered home.

"No," I said.  "No screen time today."

"WHAT?!" he said as he launched into his whiny voice.  "BUT I've had a hard da-ay!  I was doing my best at scho-ool."  Any whiner who can turn a one syllable word into a two syllable word is good, very good.

"I no watch t.v.?" Little D repeated.  "No.  I say no!"

They both became as grumpy and irate as I am when I'm on a juice cleanse.

"We're going to the park!" I announced over the din.

I loaded their protesting little selves into the car as they moaned and groaned. 

"You may hate me for this now," I quoted from the article, "but you will thank me for it one day!"  That actually shut them up.  They were intrigued by the concept of "hating me" and talked it over in the back seat.

We had a lovely two hours at the park.  We ran into 3 families we know. Yay and everything.

But I didn't get any reading or writing done, I didn't fold laundry and get to vacuum the floor as I was basking on a park bench.  It wasn't very productive.

And then it occurred to me.  Did Steve Jobs' wife even work?  Didn't they have a nanny?  A full-time housekeeper and possibly a cook?  And a myriad of resources? My kids' dinner wasn't going to cook itself.

After a long day of school and 2 hours of fresh air, exercise and imaginative play the kids were beat.  I came home and put on Teen Titans Go for 45 minutes (which is actually my current favorite cartoon) with zippo guilt as I prepared dinner and did a whirlwind tidy up of my home. I even sat with them on a couch and dashed off a book review as they giggled along with the show.  It was "Meatball Party" by the way, in case any other nerds are reading this.

And then we had dinner, did bath time, read books and I put them to bed.  I'm sorry I didn't set up a playdough station or finger painting experience instead of letting them watch tv, but

a. I had already done that earlier in the day for my 3 year old and

b. I was just plain tired. 

I get a little crazy when it comes to going to the extreme. It's just not for me.  I'm not removing screen time from my children's lives.  And I don't think other parents should feel bad about occasionally occupying their kids with screen time to make their own lives easier...especially when it's something their kids clearly enjoy.  The key word here is occasionally. Don't feel guilty if you sometimes use it to your advantage.  Isn't that what technology is there for?  To make our lives easier?

We all know the kids who are permitted endless hours upon hours of tv, video games and iPad access.  They're obvious. They're impatient, irritable little beings who are often struggling at school. They have no interest in connecting with others.  Most parents care for their kids too deeply to allow them 4 hours straight of Call of Duty daily.  But I hope parents don't get scared to use small amounts of technology in their children's lives. Like the occasional donut, it's fun! Technology will be a part of their lives in the future unless your kid decides to grow up to be a dairy farmer in a remote area with no Wi-Fi. 

Do what works for you, not what worked for the Jobs' family.  Their budget for household support staff was probably slightly larger than yours.