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).

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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.

Tips for Taking Your Toddler to Work

Every great once in a while, it happens. You have an important client meeting, one that you’d rather not reschedule, and your childcare plans fall through. Now what? You could call and beg and plead with everyone you know to sit on your kid for awhile, but you did that last week, and you’re out of favors. Or, you don’t have any backup resources. So you’re faced with two options: reschedule or bring your offspring along for the ride. I chose the latter.

I strapped my sixteen-month-old into her car seat, and headed into town (her older sister had other arrangements). I was a little apprehensive about how my appointment would go, but I’m glad to report that there were no major glitches. I was productive, she was happy, the client was satisfied. Win-win-win! Now, I realize it doesn’t always go this way, and in fact, I have some horror stories of unsuccessful attempts to take my older daughter to work back when I had an office job. *shudder*

So, if you find yourself in this situation, there’s no need to panic (unless you’re an ER doctor or pilot or police officer or something and you can’t get away with this, then panic away).

1. Judge Your Child’s Temperament to See if They Can Manage This Scenario
I know my kids well. My youngest is your classic “easy child” and goes with the flow. My oldest creates her own flow and doesn’t easily adjust to new situations. I’m not sure I would have attempted this with my oldest, or it probably would have been a disaster (as it has been in the past).

This girl is always up for an adventure!

2. Inform the Client and Ask for Consent
The great majority of the time, your client will understand if you explain the situation. But don’t just show up and surprise them, and don’t be surprised or offended if they’d rather reschedule. It’s not personal.

Nobody seemed to mind my little helper.

3. Remain Calm. Remain Confident.
If you’re stressing out, your toddler will sense your mood. Keep your tone light, and act as if it’s just as exciting as a trip to the library or park. And once you’re in the meeting with your client, keep your chin up. Just because you have a child in tow doesn’t make you any less of a professional, and doesn’t diminish your intelligence. Work it momma!

4. Bring a “bag of tricks.”
It’s common sense, but absolutely crucial. You’ll need a goody bag stashed with books, toys, snacks, and any other diversion you can think of. Be prepared to cycle through them all.

Goldfish, dolls, books, we had it all!

5. Give them the Holy Grail. 
For some kids, this is your cell phone. For others, your keys. Whatever that object is that you rarely let them have, give it to them now (within reason. Don’t hand them your pocket knife of anything.) It’ll buy you some time. For my daughter, this was a lollipop (or two). We can’ t pass by a candy aisle in the grocery store without her yelling, “Pop, pop!” Baby wants. Baby gets.

Stain on the shelves matches the stains on her shirt. Oh well, the peace and quiet the lollipop provided was worth it!

6. As soon as possible, let them play.
After your meeting wraps up, find the nearest place your toddler can play, and let them go to town. I was lucky enough today that my client had a kid’s play area in the store. Genius. I released her from her stroller and set her free! It was only for 10 minutes or so, but long enough to satisfy her before strapping her in her car seat again.

She was happy to get out of her stroller and play with new toys.

While taking your toddler along as your mini-assistant might not always go smoothly, it’s worth trying. Will I do it again? Only if I absolutely have to. She was a doll, and while I enjoyed her companionship, momma needs her grown-up time once a week! :-)

Preschool Today, Presidency Tomorrow

Image

She wants your vote in 2044!

Right now, my daughter is sleeping. Her blond hair is tousled from erratic tossing and turning, and she’s probably still clinging to her chosen cuddle object of the moment—a wiffle ball bat. Her Little Mermaid jammies are too snug, but she insists on wearing them, for fear that they’ll be handed down to her baby sister once she’s officially outgrown them. Right now, she is blissfully unfettered. Her imagination runs wild, never having been tamed by the four walls of education, until today. 

In a few hours, my daughter will enter “the system.” Two years of preschool will be followed by twelve years of “big kid” school (as she calls it), and then….who knows? She’ll be out in the world. Will she attend traditional college? Will she go on to get her Master’s? Her PhD? Or will she immediately start a family, or travel the world, or even join the military? (I think she’d rather like being a drill instructor.) 

Will she go on to accomplish great things? Or will she live out a happy, but nondescript life? Will she run for office someday? Will she run for president?

These are the questions running through my head this morning. While I know I’m racing far ahead of the day at hand, I can’t help myself. My little baby is maturing at the speed of light, and being in school is only cranking the wheel faster. I know one thing’s for sure. She’s SO excited about preschool. She has been practicing wearing her backpack around, and when she saw the sentimental look on my face, she assured me, “Don’t cry mom. I’m just going to put books of learning in here.” 

Books of learning. And art projects. And notes from your teacher. And someday (hopefully years from now), notes from a boy. There I go again, taking it too far. Just like last night, when I was tucking her into bed. I scooped her up in a bear hug, repeatedly kissed her sweet head, and told her, “I just can’t believe you’re starting preschool. You’re all grown up!”

She pushed me aside (who wants hugs from mom?), looked me in the eyes, and said, “MOM! I’m just a little kid.” Yes, honey. You’re just a little kid. And this is just preschool. And I’m still freaking out a little.

Tu-tus and Toot-toots (Letting it All Go at Dance Class)

She can let it all go in dance class and she doesn’t give a rip.

She sashayed. She plied. She jumped. She somersaulted. She wiggled. She giggled. She ran around the room with reckless abandon.

And then…she ripped one.

My sweet-faced, curly-haired three-year-old angel let it all go in dance class, literally. And not while the music was blaring. Not while their little bodies were in motion. She waited until prayer circle. When it was quiet. Eerily quiet. Those last few seconds after the instructor asks, “Any last prayer requests?”

Bwooooop!! “Hee-hee-hee I tooted.” Yep. That was my daughter. Our tiny dancer is a big tooter.

The other girls giggled, too young to know (or care), that public flatulence isn’t socially acceptable. A few of the older girls looked at her with what seemed to be…admiration.  “Wow, that chick just totally farted and didn’t even care! OMG she laughed about it!” (Or whatever tween girls talk like nowadays.)

And while I have to admit I didn’t puff my chest and proclaim, “That’s my girl!,” I wasn’t embarrassed either. After all, gas happens. I’ll just have to teach her how to be a little more discreet and say, “Excuse me,” or better yet, “It was the dog.”

You see, I was a little hesitant to enroll her in dance class. And not just because of the cost. I worried about the teeny outfits, the sexualized moves, the over-emphasis on appearance and other negative stereotypes of the “dance culture.” But I’m comfortable with the teacher, and the only other student is my daughter’s best friend, so I decided to give it a shot. And she loves it. Absolutely loves it. We’ve only been to two classes, and I can already tell she’s really enjoying herself.

That’s what matters most to me. That she learns to enjoy moving her body and gains confidence by learning to perform. I just want her to have fun. I want her to enjoy being young before the weight of the world lands on her shoulders. For now, she’s carefree. She can let it all go in dance class and not give a rip.