On-Ramping

I pounded the pavement hard for my first job out of college. I was moving to a new city and lacking in personal and professional contacts. I networked when possible, I scoured the relevant trade want ads and, finally, came across what ended up being my first professional job.

After that, my professional moves were all part of the it’s not what you know but who you know cliche. And boy, did that make life easier.
Here I am, five years removed from the working world and that who you know thing still rings true. A friend convinced me to meet with her husband, whose start-up company is growing quickly and in need of some PR help. She assured me he was interested in someone part-time, was open to a work at home arrangement and all I had to do was hear him out.
I walked into that meeting expecting one of two things: it would 1) be a few writing assignments here and there and a great way to keep my toes in the water or 2) be a bad fit – no harm, no foul.
What ended up happening was me walking out of an office building, my head spinning at the incredibly exciting opportunity that was presented to me.
Now I find myself, a few short weeks later, employed again. I’m knee deep in babysitter interviews and background materials. I’m floundering my way through how to organize my day and wondering if the laundry will ever be folded again.
The thing is, I wasn’t planning on going back. This was supposed to be the year of ramping up to the on-ramp. The year of planning and exploring and deciding. Instead, I find myself thrown back into the deep end.
And the strange thing about it? I am loving it. Sure, we’ve only just begun, but it’s exciting. It’s new. It’s challenging. It’s mine.
The most awesome part of the whole thing has been the overwhelming support I’ve received. My family and friends have encouraged me, talked me off the ledge when the panicked “what abouts” came up and stoked my confidence when it wavered. Knowing that I have such a fantastic network of support (lead by the uber supportive hubby) to back me up made taking this leap of faith a lot easier.
So if I’m a bit absent from this space, be patient. I’m sure I’ll have lots of new stories to share as I navigate this new work/life tightrope. And for all of you experienced working mamas – feel free to share your best bits of advice for me. I could use all the help I can get!
In the meantime, I’ll be dusting off my heels. Time to put them back to work.

Five

Dear Peanut:

This morning, you woke up five years old.
Wow.
Five years ago, I snuggled your mushy littleness under my chin and breathed you in. Today, you wrap your gangly arms and legs around me. Five years ago, you whimpered. Today, you demand, and sometimes sweet talk. Five years ago, you sighed. Today, you chatter. Five years ago, you lay, swaddled and small, still but for those newborn snuffles and gasps. Today, you are in constant motion. Five years ago, I had no clue what to expect. Today, I have no clue what to expect.
You are willful and smart. You hate not being good at something, but beam pride when you finally master a new skill. You are a coloring fool lately. You constantly have your nose in a book and have pretty much taught yourself to read. You love games of all kinds. You are currently obsessed with hide and seek, but you lack any kind of patience in hiding and will giggle and wiggle loudly until someone finds you. You are your brother’s teacher, which is adorable when you take him by the hand and attempt to teach him a new word, not so cute when you show him how to blow bubbles in his milk at the dinner table or tease out screams in the middle of the grocery store.
I have so much I want to say to you, but somehow can’t piece together to say to you tonight. This week has been full of distractions and I feel them cluttering my mind. So instead of attempting to write my typical sappy birthday love note to you, I am going to log off, sneak into your room, move the books piled up in your bed, straighten the sheet you manage to twist into a knot, push the hair off your forehead and whisper another “I love you” in your ear. It’s all I can think of to say. It’s all I can think of to feel. It’s all I can think of to do. To love you.
Because the you of five years ago and the you of today are the same you, the essence of you, the soul of you. Despite the struggles, the daily frustrations, the butting of heads, the you that is you is the you that I will love five years ago, today and forever.
Happy Birthday, Peanut.

Living a Dream

Back in high school, we all had ambitious dreams, didn’t we? As teenagers, life looms large and long in front of us. It’s our time to dream big, enjoy life and consider “consequences” the result of a missed curfew.

At the same time, it’s one of the most difficult times in our lives. Reality is starting to sink in. We recognize flaws in ourselves and the adults in our lives. We begin to question why and find that the truth we so desperately seek often hurts and disappoints. We might dream our big, fantastic dreams, but there is a part of us that is calculating college choices and realizing that accountant, restaurant manager or cubicle resident might be closer to reality.
Last week, I had the opportunity to see an old high school pal. We were in band together. He was a drummer. You could just tell he was simply passing through school to get it over with. He wanted to be a musician. And we all saw it in him. Although, part of me probably wondered if it wasn’t another one of the dreams we all dream that will eventually get shelved while we’re busy looking for something to do to pay the rent.
But, you see, he dreamed bigger than I ever could. He had a passion. One that he never lost sight of. One that allowed for opportunity. One that rewarded him. Fast forward 17 years to last week: I watched someone I have known for so long I can’t remember when exactly we met live a dream like it was just another Thursday night. Only it wasn’t. It was a packed venue, screaming fans, an album that was number two on the Billboard charts. I watched as he played that drum set with passion, vigor and pure joy. Happiness bubbled up in me in a way I didn’t expect. He did it. He spends each and every day living his dream.
Before seeing him in the concert hall, I ran into him this past April in the grocery store when I was back home. He had his little girl with him who has the most beautiful, infectious smile that you couldn’t help but feel pure joy in its glow. When he’s not touring and being a rock star, he’s a stay at home dad, a self-professed Mr. Mom. He’s done what I try each and every day to have the courage to do – be a parent while pursuing a dream.
As I watched him on stage, the same infectious smile as his daughter’s on his face, I was inspired. Inspired again to follow my own dreams. Inspired to not let reality kill the passion for writing that lurks in the shadow of my day-to-day mom life. More importantly, I was inspired to be a parent who will support my children to follow their own dreams. To live the life they can only imagine. To do whatever it is that will illicit the genuine joy smiles I witness on their baby faces.
Whether it’s being a musician or an accountant, a thinker or a doer, I am inspired to be the parent who delivers them to their dreams so that I never, ever lose sight of those smiles.
So congratulations, Matt, on your success. And thank you.

Low Moments in Parenting

I admit that I have had my moments of judging other parents. Noticing a kid under a certain age drinking a soda might make me cringe. Watching a consistently rude child on the playground might make me wonder if they’re the kid of the dad/mom/nanny on his/her cell phone oblivious to the scene around them. Seeing a child swatted publicly makes me uncomfortable and I wonder if it’s more than spanking at home.

Is it right? Recognizing parenting behavior that contradicts my own style and disagreeing with it is certainly okay. The judgey, sometimes sanctimonious “well, I’d never” that I admittedly feel in those situations, yeah, not so good. But we’ve all been there, right? I’m fairly confident I’m not alone in taking a modicum of pleasure at someone else’s parenting nightmare’s expense…at least it’s not my kid throwing all the groceries out of the cart. (Tell me I’m not alone in this.)
But lately, it is my kid.
Pumpkin has a horrible habit of randomly screaming. More accurately, of screeching a sound akin to getting your hand stuck in a door while biting ants nibble at your ankles and pigeons peck at your hair. It’s a blood curdling, no spinning it, scream.
It’s bad enough at home where a screech might pierce the air when his older brother takes a toy. Lately, however, it’s become very public. There was the restaurant while we were on vacation where I spent most of the meal outside with the toddler so his overtired screams would not disturb the other diners. There was leaving the Children’s Museum where Pumpkin voiced his displeasure at leaving with bursts of screeches I so desperately tried to ignore while hustling us out the door.
Then, this morning, there was the botched set of errands. The library visit was chaotic, with screaming ensuing every time I tried to distract Pumpkin from pulling a set of Caldecott winners off the shelf or running through the vertical blinds at the picture window. Perhaps my first mistake was thinking a change of scenery would help, but we braved the trip to Party City to pick up a few supplies for Peanut’s upcoming 5th birthday party.
It started so well. I kept my energy level high. A nice grandmotherly type complimented how cute the kids were as we strapped Pumpkin into the cart. Then, at aisle two, the screeching commenced. I heard someone gasp. The same grandmotherly type said something to the effect of “He’s not messing around.” I tried to distract. I tried to cajole. I firmly told him no. And then he screeched on aisle three when he couldn’t reach the balls, then screeched when he dropped the ball, then screeched when I tried to hustle us to the next stop in the store. Finally, the store manager peaked down the aisle and asked if everything was okay.
Needless to say, we got the heck out of dodge. We were in the store for a total of 10 minutes.
I drove home in tears.
What do you do when you’re that mom of that kid? How do you explain that you’ve tried time outs? You only run errands when the kids are well rested, fed and normally happy? You do everything you possibly can to make the experience pleasant and the kid screams like that simply because he sees a baseball across the store and I turned the cart the wrong way? I’m at the point where I want to beg those people for help. If you know so much better, then please, tell me. Help me. Make it stop.
But I can’t. Or I don’t. Instead, I simply feel defeated every time I strap the kids back into their car seats, my errands incomplete, my dignity shuffling along a few paces behind. It makes me question whether I’ve got the right stuff for this gig.
I know this too shall pass. Eventually, I’ll figure out what works or Pumpkin will grow out of it or he’ll start a new trend and everyone will start screeching like banshees at random moments in public (the next flash mob trend anyone?). Until then, I think I’ll stock up on earplugs and become a hermit since we obviously can’t leave our house.
On the upside, I’m providing a public service. Some other mother at the library or Party City might have been having a bad day today and instead left thinking at least that’s not her kid.