Tag Archives: parenting

My Fault…

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I thought I could go back to bed and lie there for a bit without incident. So, technically, I suppose it was my fault. But I heard everyone helping each other get breakfast. It sounded peaceable.

So, forty glorious minutes later I walk out. The weather’s perfect. It’s sunny. Even the introvert in me is charmed.

“Let’s go to the park,” I say, “Shoes on.”

At this moment in the hallway the little guy passes me holding a spoonful of milky cereal in front of his belly and marching into his bedroom. Curious, I follow him. Then I watch as he stops, calculates, throws said cereal onto the carpet, touches one foot on top of it delicately as if to evaluate his success and turns, I’m assuming, in order to get more.

Well, I stop that nonsense and on the way to the kitchen with the spoon I notice several other arrangements of cereal on the floor and realize this is an installation piece, probably entitled “Scourge of My Mother”. There is also one very wet towel lying in a square on the floor.

“Hey guys? What’s with the wet towel? Did he have an accident?”

“No, Mom, he spilled a cup of milk,” said the eldest.

“He did it on purpose. And it was my milk,” said the girl.

Mixed media.

(There are many moments like this when I’m glad I don’t have a nice place. I can’t stand how my kids treat my two-bedroom rental. What on earth would I do if they treated my dream-house this way?!)

I proceed into the kitchen. And the baby has tried to make a smoothie.

Here is a picture of that baby:

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I sigh and scrap my plans for the park. I place the baby in the tub (the only place he will remain contained) and wipe counters, do dishes, unload dishwasher so I can load dishes, start laundry from last night’s pee debacle(another long story), scrub and baking soda a square of carpet, sweep the kitchen, vacuum and four hours later it’s nap time and I’m sucking down coffee and eating some Go Diego Go cereal. For some subliminal reason I wanted some.

The first baby, that’s not anyone’s fault. You’re naive; you’ve never had a baby. You don’t know. The second one, well, that’s not technically your fault either. You and your husband have seven siblings between you. Let’s blame family culture. But three, well- the third one’s on you. You asked for three. This is on you.

The Multitasking Poop Post (Contains Expletives)…

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I just had the poop sucked back into me. I’ve been having trouble with my bowels and have also been sick for a few days. I was looking forward to a satisfying poop. And I’m sitting there on the potty and my two-and-a-half-year-old is climbing into the tub and my five year old girl is in the room getting naked on top of my feet and my seven year old has a book open in the doorway trying to get me to commit to the type of tree that is growing in his pot (breaking news: it’s a weed, not the peach pit or the plum pit or the apple seed you planted in the backyard. “But MOM, I’m pretty sure it’s a peach tree.” “It’s not a peach tree. I’ve seen lots of peach trees. We used to have four peach trees. They have long thin leaves that can be slightly fuzzy.” “This one HAS fuzzy leaves, Mom!”) And I had to tell my daughter to please go take her collection of clothes off of my feet and into the room where they go and her brother beaned her for fun on her way through the door and she yells at him and the oldest is shoving the book in my face and the water is roaring into the bathtub next to me and my long slow comfortable poop climbed back inside my rectum and said, “Well, then, I think we’ll just stay in here.” Yes. Yes, Poop. I would, too. I would go hide in that quiet dark place, too, if I could.

I’m writing this post about multitasking. I began about two hours ago and have had to stop for innumerable reasons: unloading the dishwasher so I can load the dishwasher, washing the banana off the kid-scissors. finding the banana from this morning in the colored pencils, cleaning poop out of the bathtub, assuring my eldest that I have cleaned the baby’s poop out of the bathtub, singing Aladdin Jr. songs to the baby for twenty minutes in hopes he squeezes the rest of the poop into the potty, wading through two giant north american classification tomes trying to prove this damn weed, picking up all the baby wipes that were thrown at sister, crying for a minute with sister (she had her reasons I had mine). I mean…

I hate the way my brain is on Facebook. I tell my kids that you are good at what you practice and I practice the Facebook bounce, boy, do I. Political essay, kitten video, necessary social justice article, pictures of Kate and William and the babies, the latest Jimmy Fallon video, don’t vote for so-and-so article, photo of a sunset, vaccinate your kids, totally meaningless sentimental meme, blah, blah, blah… an hour later, AN HOUR LATER!?!?

They used to say multitasking was a good thing. Those were supposed to be the capable talented people. But now we’re learning that human beings aren’t supposed to multitask. Human beings are supposed to concentrate on one damn thing at a time, like pooping. We’re supposed to sit on the toilet and poop in one giant unified movement of bowels and brain. I have never been a multitasker, most creative people aren’t. Multitasking is very very bad for creative people. You need to sit with a thought or an idea. You need to let ideas tumble on top of each other organically. It get’s crazy busy up there.

Only now I’m a mom so now when my brain begins a blog post, for example, and I’m thinking about what I want to write I have to stop because some weed grew exactly where my son remembers planting a pit or a seed last fall and it is now in a pot on my kitchen window sill.

Motherhood makes you a multitasker by necessity. And now that I have three and they are each older with unique trains of thought on different rails (and this includes the little guy now, too. He’s verbose dammit.) my train keep jumping tracks a zillion times and, well, my life is a giant Facebook bounce all fucking day long and that’s why a stupid hour can go by without me realizing I’ve only been scrolling Facebook because this is what I practice!

So, I’ve been having trouble with my bowels, like I’ve said. Last week I actually went to the doctor. And then within two minutes of telling her my symptoms she pops out with, “Well, we’ll do the medical tests just to make sure we can rule things out, but did you know they call the intestines the second brain?” No. Who? Who is calling the intestines the second brain? I’ve watched every single season of ER, House, and Grey’s Anatomy and no one has ever referred to the intestines as the second brain. At any rate, she then says, “You’re stressed.”

“I’m stressed?”

“What do you do to relax?”

“Well, I’m a creative type, so it really depends. If I have hours or a day, even, I—“

(I just had to go take a break to change a poopy diaper because I put the baby in a diaper at bedtime. He was so coy.)

As I was saying, “I’m a creative type so if I have hours or days I might try to write or paint but if I have less than that it can actually be more frustrating than ever starting in the first place.”

“So, what do you do if you have less than an hour?”

I kinda laugh, “Uh, well, the same thing as anybody, I guess, have a drink, eat some cookie dough and watch a show.”

That’s when she made me take the depression test. It was this basic ten question test that any mother would fail, I mean, am I tired? Do I overeat or not eat? (YES.) Do I ever feel guilty? (Uh…)

And she brought in a very nice therapist for me to talk to and THEN they heard more about my life and THEN they agreed that it was indeed stress. I felt horrible. How can I claim stress? I’m really happy with my job, my kids’ school. I get to do this awesome school play. My husband is actually very helpful. Everyone’s in good health. I don’t overcommit; I have no problem saying “no”. My kids have zero activities outside of school. What a luxury for this white American mom with a full fridge to have nervous bowels because of stress?!

But maybe, they said, stress doesn’t have to be big or hard or negative things, just lots of things. Well, I have lots of things. Yes, they said, you have lots of things.

And my wise boss lady, when I told her about it later said, “You’re thinking about the stressors you don’t have because you live in this culture, but don’t forget that this culture does come with a lot of stressors of its own. A person in Kenya has a sky full of stars and not a lot of options. You have a few stars and are inundated by a surplus of options every where you go.”

(And now, would you believe that the moment the kids go to bed I need to poop again. It was a nice comfortable poop. I lit a candle, for ambience!, and now I am typing by candlelight.)

A multitude of options has always been stressful to me. (Remind me to tell you the story of how I broke down weeping all over my stoic Japanese advisor during freshman registration. “There’s[heave]too many[heave]classes[heave]that I want[heave]to take.” It’s a good one.)

I love my job. I love my kids. I love a lot of things. I have a lot of interests. And the feeling like I need to be creating goes with me everywhere. I KNOW I am grateful. I guess I am stressed. And according to ten questions I am also “moderately depressed”. I also have a higher blood pressure than I usually have. And I am also the thinnest I’ve ever been which is slightly alarming considering all that cookie dough.

Anyway, reader, here I am, trying to figure it out. Trying to un-Facebook-bounce my very bouncy life. (Which is a little like being the one person of five who stops jumping on a trampoline, don’t you think?)

In Which Barbara Fails at Stop, Drop, and Go…

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Our elementary school is very proud of their student drop off program, “Stop, Drop, and Go”. Last year I didn’t participate at all. This year I decided to sign up for a shift. The shifts go from 7:30 to 7:55 and you stand in a line wearing an orange vest and open car doors for students.

In those 25 minutes of my shift these things happened:
• I was ten minutes late and had to wear the bum vest that wouldn’t velcro.
• I discovered it was National Walk-to-School Day and opened only five doors as most everyone walked or biked past me.
• I mortally offended a middle schooler by opening the door for her. I attempted to provide a balm by saying, “Oh, no, of course you’re much too old to go here.” It didn’t help.
• I couldn’t close a minivan door, the woman repeatedly yelling at me, “Lift it up! Lift it up!”
• A boy and a girl hopped out. The mom yelled, “I love you!” I told the girl to tell her mother she loves her. The girl said, “She’s not my mother! She’s a carpool!”

[Barbara bows. Mic drop.]

Things My Daughter Says…

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So, if you haven’t picked this up, then let me tell you that my four-year-old daughter is a force.

She said to me, “Mom, on Valentine’s Day can you say ‘yes’ to everything?”
“Ha, no, sweetie,” I said.
“Why not?”
“I’m not a good Mom if I say yes to everything.”
“Why not?”
“Well, you gotta learn how to handle ‘no’,” I said.
“Why?”
“Because you’re going to hear ‘no’ in life at some point or another.”
“No, I’m not,” she said.

This is very indicative of who she is. And I find myself wondering if it’s indicative of who she will be. She said it so firmly I actually wondered if she were right. I mean, life might say “no”, but if history is any indicator, she won’t hear the word. Ha ha.

For example, two days ago I noticed her standing in the middle of the floor on her favorite princess storybook, the binding of which is dangerously close to giving up the long hard work of keeping the pages together.

So, I said, “Honey, step off the book before you break it.”
“But I want to break it.”
“Oh, you don’t want it anymore?”
“No,” she said.
“Alright, we’ll give it to another little girl who wants it,” I said.
“Okay.”
“Great, put it by the front door on the bench so I can take it out.”
“Okay.”

A moment later, “Mom, I put the book on the bench for you.”

All of this makes her a difficult four-year-old. And, yet, all of this is going to make her an extraordinary adult.

Hear me, Mommas! There is an upside to having a strong-willed child! I’ll let you know what it is when I get there!

So, this evening, I’m clinging to the big picture. There’s an end game out there and, meantime, in my current moment there’s chocolate ice cream and a cocktail. So, we’re good.

My Birthday Present…

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Yesterday was my birthday.

The day before I had to run to the local pharmacy. So, the kids giggled and whispered and ransacked their piggy banks to come with me and buy me a present.

I found myself wanting to tell them “no”. No, save your money. Don’t spend your Christmas money on me. Just draw me a picture or make me a card or something.

But then I thought, okay, I do things for them all the time. I can let them do something for me.  I can let them see how they are useful, thoughtful and needed. I can let them feel their power to affect good for those around them.

And, really, this is actually the sort of behavior I want to encourage. I do want my adult children to remember my birthday and do something thoughtful for me. And since I’m not the sort of fool who thinks this sort of behavior automatically springs out of an eighteen year old heart, well, then now is the best time, when naturally outpouring from their generous little hearts, to build the habit. So, I let them bring their monies in plastic baggies.

At the store I found what I needed while my daughter followed my son from aisle to aisle looking at all their options. Four little eyes kept peaking around end caps and warning me to stay away. At one point my son discovered the gift cards and was super excited.

He brought up a $25 gift card to Starbucks valiantly trying to cover the logo.

“How much is this, Mom?” he asked.

“Too much to spend on me for my birthday,” I said.

“Mom, what does 5 P-C-S mean?”

“Five pieces,” I said, trying not to see the five-pack of alligator clips in his hand.

“Mom, do you like skittles?”

“Yes, I do like skittles.”

I walked over to the cashier after purchasing what I had come for.

“They’re looking for a birthday present for me,” I said, “So, can you help them a little bit with the money?”

The cashier nodded and I walked a distance away.

I finally hear my kids decide and stealthily maneuver the present up to the register. I am able to see just the tops of their heads and the back of the cashier as they buy it.

“It’s a surprise, so can you not let her see it?” my son asks the cashier.

“Yeah,” she said, “I’ll put it in this bag.”

They all look over at me conspiratorially to make sure I can’t see.

Please, let them not spend too much on me! Please, don’t let it be the alligator clips! I would definitely have to wear them and I hate wearing alligator clips!

There was an exchange of monies. Some coins were counted out.

“One more of those,” the cashier said.

And then they were done. My son was slightly blanched as we walked to the car.

“She made him give her six of his paper monies, Mom,” said my daughter in an awed sort of tone.

“It was $5.99,” my son says a little gravely.

“Well, I feel really special for you to spend your money on me,” I said.

“I’m so excited to give it to you,” he said.

“I can’t wait!” I say. Whatever it is I will love it.

Yesterday, on awaking, I was instructed to stay in bed while they worked on their surprise.

After a while I was escorted into their room. All of their animals sat in a color-coded rainbow around their room. They had set up their legos in birthday panoramas on the dresser. And on top of a blanket artfully looking like a tablecloth across the toy chest was a paper birthday cake with candles and a “35” on it, and next to it, was my present.

Chewbaca singing a birthday song

Chewbaca singing a birthday song

“Do you want to open it now?” My son asked.

“Yes,” I said, “Can I open it now?”

I opened my son’s stellar wrapping job (really, he does a very good job) and what do I see? A 60 pack of hair bands, the same kind I always use, in a rainbow of options.

“I got you 60-P-C-S, Mom,” he said.

“I love it!” I said, “This is exactly the kind I always get! How thoughtful of you!”

“We got you all the colors because we know you like all the colors,” my daughter said.

“Now, you can pick whatever color you want. And if you lose one, there are two or three more of the same color,” my son says, “Look, there’s even skin color.”

I am so proud of these thoughtful human beings. I am proud of my son when he feels that wince and buys the present anyway. I am so glad I let him spend $5.99 on me.

I can’t help but think about how similar I must seem to my heavenly father. How he lets me give to him. How he takes pleasure in my meager gifts. How much I wince sometimes before I give him service, but feel the pleasure all the same. God doesn’t need me to give to him, but he wants me to give to him.

I will now be making a big to-do every day as I pick out what color to wear. For sure, I won’t have to buy anymore for a few years. And thank goodness it wasn’t the alligator clips!

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