Dear New Mom

Because even when you finally get their room clean, they have a mind of their own. Fact: you can’t get crap done with kids.

Hello friend. How are you? Tired? Overjoyed? Overwhelmed? Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok. You’re not alone. Millions of mothers have done this before you, and there’s probably nothing you can throw at us that we haven’t heard before. And all those books you read to prepare you? They only tell about half of the story. Yes, they talk about dads taking turns “getting up with the baby during the night.” But you know what? Sometimes this doesn’t happen. Some men are just wired differently and can’t function the next day with little sleep. (Moms always can, even if we’re face-plant tired.) And some men can actually sleep through a baby screaming for more than half an hour straight. Yes, it’s annoying. The books don’t talk about this. But that doesn’t mean they’re not good dads, it just means your expectations will need to shift if you’ve been counting on them to share nighttime parenting duties 50/50. And sometimes, you’ll hit them with a pillow over the head or curse at them while they’re happily snoozing. That’s ok, too. (Just don’t use anything harder than a pillow, and if you’re tempted, seek therapy.)

And at some point, when you’re starting to get your sea legs and actually feel like putting on makeup again, you’ll start to feel a false sense of optimism. You’ll tell yourself, “This isn’t so bad, I CAN do it all! My house can be clean, my kid can always appear in public in un-stained clothes with a snot-free face, and my stomach will someday return to its former state.” Well, for some women (Hollywood celebs), this might be true, but it’s just not realistic. Or desirable, even. When your daughter has her own child someday, and is struggling with these same issues, wouldn’t you rather be able to tell her, “Oh, honey, it’s ok. I’ve been there too.” I mean, who wants to hear, “Well, you know, I did it all. There was never cheese smashed into the carpet, and I got back into my old jeans in six months.” Blech. Don’t be THAT grandma.

There’s another thing I’d like to add. You know those moms who make it look so easy? Unless your’re intimately familiar with what goes on behind her closed doors, it’s probably all a front. That’s what Instagram, selective Facebook status updates, and Spanx are for. She wants you to think she’s got it all pulled together, that her kitchen counters would always pass a white-glove inspection, her kids never smear boogers on her Coach purse, and she and her husband make wild, passionate love with the lights on every night. For some reason, she needs her image, and that’s ok. She probably needs more help than the rest of us (ok, she definitely needs more help).

If you just remember these three things, you’ll feel a little better about your new role, and not feel like such a massive failure.

1. Your hormones are whack, and will be for a long, long, long time. (Try years.) Just accept this new roller coaster ride, and maybe you’ll even throw your hands up and say, “Whee!” when the car comes crashing to the bottom. Or, just keep lots and lots of chocolate on hand. It helps, too.

2. You can’t get crap done. Just let it go. Those Christmas cards might not get sent. The kitchen floor might be perpetually sticky, and your backseat might never be completely free of Cheerios, milk splatters or an explosion of toys.

3. You’re their mom for a reason. You’re not perfect, but they don’t need you to be. Someday, they might even tell you they hate you (even at three years old during a massive meltdown). But you know what? They don’t mean it. They love you. They need you. You’re just right for them.

And remember, when you’re feeling down, we’re here for you. You can come over to our messy house, let your snot-nosed kid play with our snot-nosed kid, and help us polish off that hormone-induced pan of brownies we just baked (and burned a little).

9/11 Through My Daughter’s Eyes

Just like any other American over a certain age, I can remember exactly where I was when the “world stopped turning” on September 11th, 2001. I was a senior in high school, and just starting my day in first-period home economics class. Lessons were paused. Mouths hung open. Tears started falling. Here, tucked away in the safety of the Midwest, the impact of what had happened in New York City shook even our tiny town. I can still remember a narrow-sighted boy from my class asking in disgust, “Why are we even watching this? It’s not like it’s going to affect us.” His words cling with me. How wrong he was. Not only did it affect us, and the world, but it affects our children.

When stepping out to take my daughter to preschool this morning. I couldn’t help but think about what the weather was like here on that day eleven years ago. It was similar to today, sunny and slightly cool. A beautiful morning. When and how would I ever tell her what had happened? Would she understand? Just then, she looked up into the sky and squealed, “Mommy, look! Look what two those airplanes did!” My heart immediately jumped, considering what was on my mind. I stepped off the porch to see what she was pointing at. “Those planes made a cross, just like in church! Just like Jesus!”

“Yes, honey, you’re right,” I told her. As I buckled her into her car seat, I felt a little better. I was reminded that there is so much good in this world, and even on our darkest days, we can still find hope.

My young daughter saw a beautiful symbol in the sky on this anniversary of 9/11.

A conversation I wasn’t ready for, but managed not to screw up

Helping my daughter navigate friendships can be messy, but just like finger painting, it’s worth it!

My preschooler had been peppering me with questions and statements and demands and stories and random animal noises all evening and it was easy, so easy, to tune her out and go about my business with an obligatory “Mm-hmm” and head nod every once in awhile. But as I was brushing out her hair in the bathroom before bed, I felt a pang of guilt. I needed to listen to this child. She was being sweet and curious and I could almost sense the pliability in her young brain, ready to learn.

I opened up my ears, and closed the doors in my mind to outside distractions. I simply focused on my sweet daughter. Her world is rapidly expanding, but right now, I’m still firmly at the center of her little universe. This was a big moment.

“Anna, are you excited for preschool in the morning?”
“Yes! I love preschool!”
“So, tell me about all of your friends. Have you made any new ones?”
“Todd. He has black hair. Not like me.”
“Oh ok, is he a nice boy?”
“Yeah, he’s my boyfriend.”

(This is when the room started spinning a bit. Her boyfriend?! She’s 3! But I know this is normal. Right? Right?! Don’t freak out. If you freak out, she’ll be afraid to tell you about things in the future. She has nothing to be ashamed of, but I want her to know she’s not old enough yet. And I know it’s innocent and cute, but it’s just not appropriate. It’s not a big deal, right? But it is. Because this conversation will start a series of conversations for years to come. I didn’t want to screw this up.)

“Okay…did he ask you to be his girlfriend?”
“No…I’m going to tell him tomorrow.” (Oh my, I have an assertive little girl on my hands.)
“Well, sweetie, I’m glad you have a special friend, but having a boyfriend or girlfriend is for when you’re older. Like a grownup.” (She calls teenagers grownups.)
“But, he’s just a kid boyfriend.”
“Yes, he can be your kid friend, or special friend, but not your boyfriend. Okay? You’re not in trouble.”
“Okay, mommy. Can he be my brother?”
“Um…sure. You can call him brother.”
“Hooray!”

She ran out of the bathroom into the living room for “tooth inspection” with daddy (our nightly ritual). I wanted to let my husband know about the conversation we’d just had, and I wanted my daughter to know her father was on the same page. She seemed to comprehend our agreement, and didn’t seem ashamed or embarrassed. She just seemed happy and innocent, and still a little girl for just a brief while longer. She’ll probably come home with a different boyfriend tomorrow, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Win a competitive eating contest (and other things I won’t accomplish before 30)

(from allaboutg.blogspot.com)

Tomorrow is the first day of the last year of my twenties. Starting at midnight, the clock will be ticking on all the things I once dreamed of doing before I turned 30. How does this make me feel? Just fine. Mostly, my “list” was frivolous and self-serving. Still, there’s a part of me that longs to squeeze some of these in during the next 365 days. I might as well write some down (along with some other random things), so at the end of this year I can look back and say, “Wow, I accomplished nothing, but at least I survived another trip around the sun.” Because really, that’s all I  hope to do.

15 Things I Won’t Accomplish Before 30:

1. Travel to Moscow
2. Become a millionaire
3. Strut the runway in Milan
4. Publish a novel (I very well may write one, but getting it published is another ordeal)
5. Have a third child (unless I get pregnant in the next three months, highly unlikely)
6. Learn to drive a stick-shift (I’m sure I could if I wanted to, but I have no desire)
7. Skydive (Again, I could if I wanted to, but there’s no way in h-e-double hockey sticks)
8. Run a marathon (I ran a half several years ago, and that was enough for me)
9. Win a competitive eating contest
10. Bust out of prison
11. Have all of my tattoos removed (I have none, so unless I decided to get a bunch, and then remove them, ain’t happening)
12. Ride a motorcycle (never have, not sure I care to)
13. Shoe a horse (although I may “shoo” a horse)
14. Hand dig a thousand holes for our Christmas tree farm using only a thimble (most random thing I could think of)
15. Photo bomb Ellen DeGeneres fist-bumping Adam Sandler (I was wrong about #14, this is the most random)

So, here’s to keeping my expectations low for the last year of my twenties, and just staying alive!

Note to Self: You Ran

Hello there. It’s late. You’re tired. But not as tired as you’d expected. You’ve still got a few more hours of work to do, and you just might make it. You’ve been a specimen of productivity today, kicking your to-do list’s tushy and takin’ names. And you did this on only 1.5 cups of coffee and NO pop! Amazing. So, what’s your secret? What gave you this steady stream of energy today?

You remember, right? You got up this morning…and ran. You laced up your clunky running shoes, squeezed into your too-tight running shorts, threw your badly-in-need-of-a-cut hair up into a ponytail and you ran. You ran as hard as you could, and as long as you could. You sweated. You gasped. You ran. Your thighs jiggled, but you ran. Your feet turned to lead, but you ran. Your breathing was labored, but you ran.

You. Ran.

By Peter van der Sluijs (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

You collapsed back into your car after only a short distance. You didn’t catch your breath until you were several miles down the road. Your sweat created a sealant between your skin and the leather seat. You limped into the house. Your soaked sports bra adhered to your skin, giving you a mini panic attack before getting in the shower. You washed the sweat away, but the feeling remained. The high. The sense of accomplishment.

You. Ran.

Do it again. Soon.

Love, Me