A Battle I’m Going to Lose

It’s not often that the hubby and I disagree on parenting issues or techniques, thank goodness. We tend to agree on how to handle the kids, the discipline problems, the outings, the TV time. And it makes life a lot easier. Or at least more consistent for the kiddos.

We have, however, come to an impasse.
Next weekend is the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game here in Atlanta, featuring my North Carolina Tar Heels against the LSU Tigers. It’s been a long time since our football team has earned such national recognition and we’ve been pretty excited about the game since it was announced. Of course a lot of that excitement stemmed from the fact that we can go see our beloved Heels without having to drive six hours to Chapel Hill with two screaming kids in the car. To top it off, my lovely parents are going to come down for the holiday weekend and watch the boys while the hubby and I go the game. Bonus!
So far, so good. No issues here.
Until we began discussing other activities to take place over the weekend. I suggested that we could take in a bit of the Decatur Book Festival on Saturday morning. I even found out that Anna Dewdney (author of one of some of our faves, Llama, Llama Mad at Mama and Llama, Llama Red Pajama) will be leading a Pajama Parade and reading Saturday morning. I suggested we could go with the boys and my folks that morning, be home in time for nap time that afternoon and then we can head out to the game.
I was then informed: “Honestly, I’d rather take Peanut over to the College Game Day stuff that morning. I mean, it’s the Heels.”
Books vs. sports. My first love vs. the hubby’s. *sigh*
Somehow, I know how this one’s going to turn out.
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A Delayed Answer

While catching up with a former colleague on the phone last week, she announced that she’s expecting. I am thrilled for her and of course offered a very sincere “if you have questions about anything…” And then when asked what my must-haves would be, I drew a blank. I think I threw out some random thoughts on snap bibs over Velcro and cloth diapers as burp cloths, but I’m sure nothing that the glowing, expectant mom hoped to see twinkling on a registry list.

After Peanut was born, I had lots of answers. When friends asked for my advice or opinions, I had them. What I liked about strollers, the best bottles, the most comforting swing, thoughts on play mats and exersaucers and post-delivery expectations… Why is it that it’s so hard now? Is it that those were all things I didn’t have to consider this time around so the decision making process is that much more distant? Or am I too busy to care anymore?
I think the reality is that the second time around you aren’t analyzing the stuff anymore. You use what works and you don’t what doesn’t. You move through life with a bit more of an accelerated purpose than you did when your focus could be whether this toy or that was holding your little one’s attention. For example, today Pumpkin’s favorite play things were playground mulch at the park and an IKEA catalog. And I’m okay with that.
So after two kids, here is my list of must haves for new mamas:
* Love – Be ready to feel love in a way that you never have before. In a way that lives and breathes separate from you but inside of you at the same time. Be prepared to lose your breath at their beauty and chunks of time staring into their little faces.
* Patience – Whether it’s sleepless nights, post-partum hormones, or fitting into your pre-pregnancy pants, you’ll need patience to deal with it all. Remind your spouse of this fact. He’ll need this one, too.
* Confidence – Everyone will tell you that your mothering instinct will kick in. In some way shape or form, it will. That doesn’t mean that you will miraculously know exactly how to handle every baby situation thrown at you or can whip up a cake from scratch, but it does mean that you will be the best observer of and advocate for your baby. Whatever you do, trust yourself to know when you need to ask for help, ask if something’s “right,” or stand up for what you want. It’s your body (during and post-delivery) and it’s your baby. Nurses, doctors, family members, grocery store clerks, they all mean well, but they aren’t going to be the ones nursing your baby at 2am or pacing the floors when they’ve missed curfew in 16 years. It’s you and your kid in it for the long haul. Start trusting yourself now.
* Rest – All moms need to recharge in order to be the best mom they can be. You can follow the whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” mantra or simply take a bath or go out for coffee or put on a pair of heels when you go to the pediatrician’s office. Whatever it takes to make you feel like you, do it. It sounds easy, but can prove to be difficult. Use that confidence you registered for above to help you stand up for your rest time.
* Stroller/Carrier/Car Seat/High Chair – Yup, you’re going to need all that stuff. Don’t stress about it. You do NOT need a $1,500 stroller just because the latest celebrimom has it. You do need to pick products that are safe and reliable and meet whatever other standards you have. Just remember that your kid will throw up in it, at least once, no matter how much you spend on it.
* A Sense of Humor – I can guarantee that your sweet, adorable little baby will wait to spit up all over you until after you shower for the first time in two days and put on your last clean shirt. You will also experience one blessed morning when you are actually leaving on time, not 15 minutes late, and realize, as you pick up the infant seat with your precious bundle snugly snapped inside and grinning at you, that he has pooped. Big time. If you can’t learn to laugh at these situations, it’s going to be a long road.
* Your baby – All you really need is this new little person you get to spend the rest of your life getting to know. And all they really need is you. The gear, the clothes, the toys, it’s all just stuff. The soft baby smell at the back of the neck, the lip pursing when they’re fast asleep, the sighs, the grunts, the smiles, the cries, the things that only you will know about your child, that’s what you’ll remember down the road, not the model number of the car seat or what color the Boppy cover was.
That being said, you will actually need diapers. But you can always swipe a few from the hospital at discharge.

Grading Mommy

I chose this. This life. This job. This this. This stay-at-homeness. My choice. For my family.

So, why do I sometimes stop and wonder what the heck I was thinking to leave my job, my professional persona, my heels behind? Why do I feel I’m not as good at this whole stay at home mom gig as I thought I would be?
Back in the working world I suffered through the annual review. I took those days away from real work to complete the torturous process of self-analysis and goal setting for the next year. I strangely enjoyed those meetings, dreaming up new challenges and ways to meet them, looking back on a year’s worth of work to see what, in actuality, had I accomplished. New clients, client growth, story successes. All documented in a spreadsheet or report and gone over by bosses and bosses bosses followed up with a line-by-line of new goals and the all important performance raise circled at the bottom, initialed by me, put in a folder to endure the rinse and repeat process the following year.
The parameters for this new job are a bit more variable. Success or failure is fluid, the final results not in until years and years in the future. Instead, I find I measure myself against the day-to-day to-do list. And I’m often disheartened by what I see.
Cooking? Passable. Nothing too inspired.
Laundry? Onesies still banana stained, shorts still ice cream stained and really what is up with t-shirt sweat stains? And that doesn’t count the laundry I forget in the washer for three days that has to be rerun.
Housekeeping? Ugh. Don’t ask. The house is under a constant tornado watch. For every 10 things I clear off a surface, there seem to be 15 taking their place in the same spot by the time I return to it. I can’t seem to get ahead.
The kids? Unpredictable. At times sweet, loving, funny and well behaved. Other times, hitting and pushing and obstinate.
We’re all our own worst critics and how any one hour goes can define how we feel about the job we’re doing as parents. So why is this weighing heavy on my mind all of a sudden?
Peanut’s birthday party.
I put together a “handmade” pirate-themed party for Peanut’s fourth. We did a treasure hunt obstacle course, complete with treasure map that arrived in a glass bottle. I had a great time making it theme-y without making it pricey and the kids had a blast. Peanut’s still bringing it up and I received rave reviews from my friends and family.
And it felt good. Really good. That’s when I realized how rare that kind of feedback is. How long it’s been since I had accomplished something concrete with real results. Something that would have made the spreadsheet:
2010 Goal: Peanut’s 4th Birthday Party.
Create theme and execute on a budget a two hour party with snacks that results in joy, laughter and memories for the birthday boy and 10 to 15 young guests.
Unfortunately, most of the mommy tasks don’t fit so well into the corporate personnel analysis model and I’m left wondering if I’m doing enough, well enough. The fact of the matter is, who would be qualified to judge this job I’m doing anyway?
I know this is a circular problem. There are no answers. There are no yearly reviews to fall back on. There are only the day-to-day challenges. There are only the highs and the lows.
Then there are the raspberries that Peanut blew on Pumpkin’s chunky baby cheeks this evening until they both dissolved into wet, sloppy giggles.
That’s when I remember that I chose this. This life. This job. This this. This stay-at-homeness. My choice. For my family.

Four

Four. A presidential term. A college education. The number of Beatles.
But today, four means the length of time Peanut has been a part of our world.
I’ve struggled with what to write about Peanut on his fourth birthday. Struggled partly because I’m still in a post party weekend exhaustion funk, partly because the past year has been all over the map. Three was not exactly an easy age. Peanut discovered his power. The power to stall, to pick the most inconvenient (read: public) moments to misbehave, to hit, to negotiate everything, to push my buttons.
Although this new found power turned a lot of our day-to-day interactions into a virtual tug-of-war that has often driven me to the brink of my patience, we have also had some super fantastic moments.
Peanut started preschool where a whole new little boy began to emerge. A confident, although sometimes coy, learner. A kid who started to learn how to make friends and negotiate those relationships on his own. A boy who is starting to find his legs (in all their gangly, knobby-kneed glory) and use them for more coordinated play, running, jumping, dancing, climbing. A curious child before school, he is now even more so.
He is a creative child when it comes to narrative play and building, less so when it comes to coloring or art. He can be literal to a fault. He is a sponge when it comes to letters, spelling, numbers, books. He is a creature of habit. He loves slapstick and will watch Wipeout with his daddy (DVR’d for Saturday morning viewing) and America’s Funniest Videos just to laugh at people falling or getting hit in the face with something. I watch simply to watch him, giggling at his reactions.
He also became a big brother this year. He can be a sweet and loving big brother. He loves to make Pumpkin laugh, will offer him toys and roll a ball with him to Pumpkin’s delight. And then, he can test his boundaries with baby brother with a random whack, push or bonk. Recent weeks have shown Peanut finding more joy in his brother and the potential for their play relationship and I can’t wait to see what develops as Pumpkin continues to grow.
He continues to amaze, confound and tickle me. I am blessed to have him in my life, Pumpkin is lucky to have him as a big brother and our family wouldn’t be the same without him. Even on his most difficult days, I count myself lucky to be his mama.
Happy Birthday, Peanut.

A Fly on the Wall

I distinctly remember learning to swim at the local Y. The damp, chlorinated smell of the indoor pool. The slippery blue kick boards. The thrill of graduating to the deep end. I loved every second of it.

Peanut started his Y swim lessons last week. 30 years later, it’s foam noodles and buckets with “Cars” characters on them. But the indoor pool? Yup, smells the same. Timeless.
I am able to watch the lessons from the other side of a glass wall in a little lounge area. It’s been fascinating to be a fly on the wall. I have been able to observe him listening to another adult, being forced out of his comfort zone, see the excitement of achievement, gaining confidence in the water. But, almost more importantly, I have found myself learning. Learning that perhaps I hold Peanut back sometimes.
This summer, the times we’ve been in the pool, I am that helicopter mom. I live in fear of something happening. The first day that the instructor let Peanut go to swim to the wall on his own, he sank. I nearly jumped up to bang on that glass wall to pull my kid up. BUT before I could, there Peanut was. Swimming. Well, making an attempt at swimming. When he pulled himself up on that wall, shaking the water out of his hair, he was grinning ear to ear.
And so was I.
Tomorrow is our last class and I’m already going to miss it. I’m going to miss the activity it provides, the confidence it gives him, the totally cute, 20-something, tan, shirtless swim instructor…(yeah, I need to get out more).
I am thankful that I have had this time to take a breath and be an observant mom. Our day-to-day lives tend to be a constant conflict of the in the moment kid-centered activity and mom’s
hovering, marathon long to-do list. As a result, it’s sometimes hard to really see Peanut and the child he is becoming.
I’m happy to report, he is becoming one fantastic kid. Maybe not the best swimmer yet, but a happy, eager, fun little boy. And mom? She’s learning to trust the boy he is becoming.
We’ll see you at the pool.