If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I am doomed. I love my husband and generally wish him no harm. But lately, I am getting tired of his accusations involving his lunch which I painstakingly make for him each morning to bring to work. He says it tastes like Windex. No, in case you might ask, he is not suffering from any mental disorder involving paranoia. He has all his faculties and then some, perhaps that is why his taste buds are so finely tuned. And in fairness, the accusations do not come daily but generally once a month or so, and typically hone in on his turkey sandwich. Though yesterday he called in a panic to claim his grapes had a toxic-like taste as well. Not windex this time, but something equally “bad”. “Don’t eat the grapes!” he shrieked. He asks if I am slowly trying to kill him.
And from where would this delusion arise? He claims to have seen me, on more than one occasion, spraying the kitchen counter in abandon and has attested to seeing droplets of windex lingering in the air, slowly making their way down to his coffee cup. “You don’t pay attention,” he chides. He claims I inherited this trait from my mother. In fairness, he is not entirely wrong. She was a wonderful woman but indeed careless at times. I recall childhood memories of a defunct and blackened microwave oven, hidden in the corner of our garage, meekly awaiting my father’s return from work. A severe reminder that aluminum foil and microwaves do not mix. I can envision still, her pink plush bathrobe seared up the back, a result of standing too close to the stove’s gas burner on particularly frigid mornings before the heat kicked in. He reminds me of the time she added a packet of lemon dish cleanser, which had arrived as a free sample in that day’s mail, to our family’s chicken dinner. Luckily, before the dish was consumed, my sister remarked that the sauce had “bubbles” alerting my mother to a potential disaster.
I don’t know how to put him at ease. Take a bite out of his sandwich prior to packing? Do away with all my kitchen cleansers entirely and use only white wine vinegar (though that could mimic an industrial type cleanser taste as well). Consult with a professional? Yesterday, as I topped off his brown bag lunch with an apple and Hershey kiss, I tucked in a yellow stick-um note as well, as I sometimes do in my son’s lunch. It simply said “Made with love not Windex.”
A friend of mine told me recently that she likes my blog postings because I’m a “REAL mom.” This really surprised me, because I’m no more real than any of the rest of you. But what she meant was that I don’t pretend motherhood is all butterflies and rainbows. What’s unfortunate is that that reality, that raw emoting about the ups and downs of motherhood, is not the norm.
Too many moms, and probably dads as well, do pretend that they love every day with their kids and that they are never struggling as mothers. But it doesn’t help any of us to do that. So if a Real mom acknowledges that sometimes having children is really hard and really stressful, or if a Real mom doesn’t play on the floor, hands-on with her children every second they’re awake, or if a Real mom is open about the fact that she definitely fails at something motherly on a daily basis, then I am definitely a Real mom.
There are a lot of blogs and stories about “mommy wars,” the alleged wars between stay-at-home-moms and working moms. But sometimes I wonder if the real “mommy wars” are not those that happen between mothers who keep up the façade of perfection in their family lives and the mothers who drop it in favor of honesty. It is hard for me to believe that in this day of confessional reality obsessions there are still mothers who don’t acknowledge the realities of parenting, but clearly there are.
Maybe I’m just too exhausted from raising two very real boys to smile every minute and pretend we’re all living in perfect harmony. Maybe I’m too brutally honest at times about how difficult it is to have one child whose love bucket is never full no matter how much time I spend with him and another whose neurological differences have rocked our world since the day he was born. Then again, if even one woman has found something relatable and Real in what I write, I must be filling a need that someone else’s façade created. So I’ll keep living in my real life. The sometimes-crappy, always-interesting, love-filled one I’m happy to be stuck with.
I’ll be the first person to admit that I love the Holidays. I love everything about them. To me, the Holidays start the week of Thanksgiving. The kids get the entire week off, and it’s then that it clicks for me, that the Holidays are upon us. It’s also then, that the stress seems to sneak in a little easier. What side of the family will we spend Thanks giving with? Will the other side be upset? How will we possibly afford Christmas presents for everyone? Really, Christmas music already??
As a mom, trying to teach my kids about the “true” meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s disheartening that retail stores have made them (mostly Christmas) so commercialized. Thanksgiving is no longer about being around family and sharing what we’re all thankful for. It’s turned into the day that the Black Friday ads come out. So, while people are sitting around the Thanksgiving table, they’re also strategizing about what Black Friday stores to go hit up first. Don’t get me wrong; we are a single income household, so I’m all about finding good deals. But, the stories that I have heard about fights breaking out over a Tickle Me Elmo (Totally 1999, I know) make me want to puke up my pumpkin pie.
The other night as I was getting Ella out of the bath, rushing to get her dried off and in a diaper before she took off and pee’d on the floor, I realized something: with kids, there seems to be this unknown, figure-it-out-as-you-go recipe for survival.
I like to think it’s equal parts timing and planning mixed with a whole lot of go with the flow. The pee-on-the-changing-table-short-naptime-screaming-kid-with-the-short-attention-span flow.
Everything comes with a time limit, for which there must be a plan…no, a strategy. And then I must go with the flow when that plan epically fails.
Diaper changes have always been a well-timed event. In the newborn stage it was “hurry before she pees!” Now, as Ella is a toddler, it’s actually become “hurry before something catches her eye!” I have gotten skilled and putting a diaper on a backwards baby and grabbing whatever random thing will hold her attention long enough.
My daughter’s dance team – sisters to the core.
I rush out of the auditorium and into a room waiting for them to roll in. We only have a short period of time, maybe 5 minutes to get them changed and out on their way again. As they come in a flurry of activity commences. Lightening fast changes in the midst of chaos with one goal, “get them back out there as stress free and perfect as possible.” At this point you might think that I am moonlighting as a pit crew for the Indy 500. But, in reality, it is far less glamorous than this. I am a dance mom. That’s right, and no, it isn’t like the TV show.
For those of you that don’t know – let me introduce you to the world of competitive dancing. The kids are in any number of dances: tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, etc. They may also be in a number of duet, trios, or solos as well. You go to these dance competitions with other dance studios and you perform those dances in front of a row of judges. The judges critique your dance and you are awarded prizes based on your points and performance. Each dance number generally has it’s own costume, accessories, shoes, possibly even a different hair style that you, as the dance mom, are responsible for getting your child in. Sometimes your dances are sandwiched close together which makes for rapid chaos. At other times you may have a few hours between each dance – perhaps your dances are on different days even – which can quickly take over the whole weekend.
I recently revisited a Temple Grandin TED talk, The world needs all kinds of minds, from February 2010. I have watched this before and my son and I even saw her speak on this topic at the local University. But, each time I watch it I get something new out of it. What really stuck out to me on this viewing was a question asked of her at the end. Speaking for parents, the moderator asked, “Is it unrealistic for them to hope or think that that child loves them, as some might, as most, wish?” The question crossed me as strange and I think, based on her expression it may have crossed Temple Grandin as strange too. She answered saying, “Well let me tell you, that child will be loyal, and if your house is burning down, they’re going to get you out of it.”
I have never wondered if my son loves me – not once. However, unlike his sisters, he does not show love in typical ways. Hugs, kisses, telling me I look pretty- it doesn’t happen. And, I think this is what Temple Grandin was alluding to as well. Love comes in all shapes, sizes, and messages. As a parent with an autistic child, I would hope that most of us understand this and learn our own unique spectrum child’s “Love language” to steal a moniker from the well known book series.
Often, I see how this plays out for my son by watching him interact with others. When my co-worker Lori first met my son, she reached her arms out to hug him – just as she had moments ago with my girls. He turned tail and quickly walked the other way down the hallway. Later he told me, “Mom she was kind of scary.” My friend Lori was quick to figure out why that happened though. The next time he came around work, she took him aside and offered to pay him $10 if he would fix a broken fan in her office – oh and also “pretend” to be her friend. She was talking his language now. He loves to fix things for other people. That is one of his love languages. He can’t hug you dead on but he will tirelessly work to fix something for someone else.
While my son may not show love in typical expected ways, he is very loving if you know how to see it. And, I have a feeling most spectrum kids are. I worry with questions like the one asked of Temple Grandin that we are missing the love signals those kids are sending us, particularly if we rely on what society prescribes as loving behavior.
When I am leaving, particularly if it is going to be overnight, my son will say goodbye, turn his back to me, and walk back into me. It makes me want to “beep beep beep” like a truck backing up. Be careful though, if you aren’t paying attention you might miss this. He wants a hug. Yep, my son will let you hug him from the back. He has also newly added the side lunge, where he will swipe his shoulder towards yours – that also means “you can hug me now.”
I am still learning about men.
I was one of four daughters, attended all-girl catholic schools, never knew what a jersey looked like, had no idea how to change a tire and never did the wave amid the crazed fans at a pro football game. My father did put up a basketball hoop in our driveway once, short lived when the ball sailed through the glass pane of the garage door. There it stood neglected for years a sad testament to the son my mother never had.
Yet, my father who was Scottish reared, never once expressed regret at not having a son. Rather, he reveled in his four daughters and life among them. He loved his girls. Though there were times we tried his patience. I still hear in flashback, his screams of protest from the shower after being cut by a worn down razor blade used on one too many pair of female legs. Or his aversion to the smell of nail polish remover. He hated the smell of nail polish remover. He was equally content watching a rugby match as he was a cooking show. All the neighborhood women loved him.
During his daughter’s bridal showers, all four of them, rather than fleeing for the afternoon as most men might, my father would delight in being part of the celebration. He would sit center stage in his recliner, newspaper in hand (a ploy to feign disinterest though we knew better) among the squeals and chaos of thirty females. Every now and again as a new gift was unveiled he would lift his head up casually and remark “Ah what’s this one? Hold it up a little closer Kath…”
My sister Sheila too experienced the sometimes disadvantage of not having grown up with brothers. When she and my mother visited Lord and Taylor to buy her first boyfriend a birthday gift, the saleswoman paused in puzzlement as she inquired as to where she might find the men’s “blouses.”
London Olympics Wrestling Women – the wrestling kind of girls
I can always tell summer is over when the kids start turning up their noses at watermelon. And although the weather hasn’t cooled off yet, tomorrow is the first day of preschool for my littlest dude. I call him Little Dude, but really, this kid has big attitude.
I bathed him tonight, filled out the emergency contact forms and wrote the check, so I’m ready, but Little Dude had some serious questions for me about preschool.
“Do I have to use shampoo before I go?” YES
“Can I ride my scooter there?” YES
“Will there be snacks again this year? I like the snacks.” YES
“Can I ride my scooter home?” YES
“By myself?” NO
“But I know the way and where to turn?” STILL NO
“Can my teachers open the gate and walk me home?” SNICKER
“Yeah, they could come home with me and eat lunch with me.” GOOD IDEA
“And then we could wrestle.” SNORT
“Yeah, me and my teachers could wrestle in the living room!” DOUBLE SNORT
“Do you think my teachers like to wrestle?” NO
“Oh, are they those kind of girls?” WHAT KIND OF GIRLS
“No-wrestle kind of girls.” YES
“Oh, well I like them anyway.” GOOD, NOW IT IS SHAMPOO TIME
I should probably warn his teachers about this potential invitation, but I think I’ll just let the Little Dude handle it on his own.
Did your kiddos ask any crazy questions this year in their first-day jitters?
The other night, I woke up to my 3 year old crawling over me saying, “Mommy, I had a bad dream.” Thinking nothing of it (as this has happened before) I assured him that he was safe and to go to sleep.
That next morning, he mentioned his bad dream again. Normally, Eydan doesn’t really remember his dreams.
“I fell in the water!”
I could hear the panic in his sweet little voice.
“You were there…you should have grabbed me Mommy.”
Those words stuck like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth. He fell in the water and I didn’t rescue him? He then proceded to tell me that there was a bat (the kid is obsessed with Batman, so of course there is a bat). After he fell, he flew into the sky and was rescued. So, not sure what part of this dream was actually what he remembered and what part he was just coming up with.
Nonetheless, I felt awful…real Caiti wouldn’t do this, but Eydan’s dream Mommy did. Was I supposed to grab him, or did I not because I knew the bat was going to? Geez.
As a mom, I fall short…a lot. I make mistakes. I forget things.
But, I have found that I need to give myself a break. I have come to the realization that it’s not always me falling short. Sometimes, it’s me “not rescuing” my kids so that they can grow into responsible little people.
Little people who know they can always depend on me, but aren’t dependent on me.
Does that make sense?
Emaleigh broke her arm about a month and a half ago. Long story short, because of where the break was, she has been in physical therapy for about four weeks.
“Mom, I don’t want to need you less,” he said in a choked up voice.
We were in the car after the usual get-ready-for-school spectacle, in which I inwardly wished multiple times for my oldest to take more responsibility for himself. We made it into the car on time after all, a miracle every time it happens, which is pretty often. On our way to school, he wondered out loud how many years he and his little sister would be in school together. I counted it out. Three more years. She goes to preschool at the same school he attends, so they are technically in school together. But next year Kindergarten for her, he in Fourth. Then First, he in Fifth. Then… Middle School.
“I’m not ready!” I said.
He wanted to know why. Three years is an eternity to him, after all. Almost half again as long as he’s been alive.
“It’s just that you’re getting older all the time. I mean, I want that. As parents we want you to grow up, to be healthy and independent. But as you grow older, you’ll need us less, and then we’ll miss when you were little. It seems to happen so fast for us.” Faster than we expected even, because he had arrived at third grade a whole year earlier than his peers.
I could hear the strain in his voice. How he didn’t want to need me less. He couldn’t imagine a time when Mom isn’t front and center in his universe. And even though I had just been begging with him to remember what he needs to do for school in the morning without me reminding him (I still want that), I remembered that he still needs me for all kinds of things. Thank goodness.
“Let’s change what I said. You’ll need me differently, not less. Okay?”
“Okay.” And he leaned into my side as we walked into school. Let me kiss his temple with a whispered “Bye” while he chatted with a friend. Though the time for that kind of connection may be limited, it is still full. Not yet waning. Not yet.
This soccer season our team hasn’t won once. This is the first year many of the players have had to contend with real goalies and defenders. This is the first year we actually respect the soccer boundaries (Thank the Lord-it gets exhausting chasing the ball to the highway).
I warned Grandma Q when she came to visit this weekend, “Hey, just so you know, his team keeps getting creamed. There’s a lot of new rules this year.“
“That doesn’t matter!” She said.
“Well, I know, I just wanted to warn you. Boy Q actually doesn’t seem worried about it.“
And he isn’t.
In fact, two games ago at half-time his team was giggling and having a water bottle fight instead of lamenting their lack of goals. This year Boy Q has enjoyed soccer more than any other year.
That’s pretty much my post for today, another lesson learned from my kids. This is definitely one of those moments when the parents are more concerned about the outcome of the game. Our kids are doing so awesome learning how to be goalies, stepping out of their comfort zones, and learning how to be a team.
When things aren’t going your way, choose to have a good outlook. Have a water fight or something. :)
Well, it’s official. I’m a soccer mom.
As a matter of fact, I’m probably THAT soccer mom. And, no, it’s not because I now drive a van.
When Elijah first began playing soccer at the age of 4, it was more of a cuteness factor. All of the kids running after the ball causing constant pile ups, shin guards and socks that would constantly fall down because their little legs were still too small, and no goalies.
As he has gotten older, he has learned that he really enjoys soccer. He gets it. Elijah is usually my quiet, a little bit timid, A-LOT-like-his-mommy child. But when it comes to soccer, I see a spark in his eye and he comes alive on the field. He is not afraid to get in there and be aggressive. I live for that. It’s amazing to watch your kids realize that they are really good at something. (Yet, still be humble about it.)
Last week at his game was hard for me as a mom.
During the game, I noticed kids on the other team pushing our kids. It’s hard as a parent, to sit on the sidelines and witness your child being mistreated by another child. Not only that, but the coach of the other team was letting it happen. Luckily, we have an amazing coach who mentioned it to the referee at one point…yet, it still happened. Please keep in mind that this is a 7/8 year old team.
Although Elijah comes alive on the field, he is still (by far) my most sensitive child. At one point I saw the goalie give him a little shove and Elijah just stared back at him. It wasn’t a glare, or a mean look…but the look of a child who wanted to say something so bad, and couldn’t muster up the courage to do so. Now, had it been either of my other two kids out there, they would have definitely said something to the kid. My 10 and 3 year old can hold their own.
But, it was my Bubba.
He continued to play his heart out for the rest of he game. And, let me just say, this wasn’t happening to just Elijah. It was our whole team that was getting pushed around. Yet, they were ALL playing their very best and each of them held their composure throughout the game.
After the game was a different story.
Usually, Elijah runs over (whether they won or lost) gives me a big hug and a single dimple filled smile. When he reached me that day, I was on my knees gathering our things. I looked up at him and he slumped in front of me, and immediately began crying. Crying and questioning why kids can be so mean. Crying and telling me that it wasn’t fair that they won. Tears rolling down his face.
No, no it isn’t fair that they won. I explained to Elijah that unfortunately, sometimes in life we have situations where something isn’t fair. And, when it comes to the other team, playing unfairly is no way to win a soccer game…even if it is only 7 and 8 year olds. I went on to tell him how proud I was of him and his entire team (coach included) for keeping their heads held high and playing with heart and soul…the right way.
If this is only a 7 and 8 year old team, I can only imagine the intensity when he gets to high school…if he sticks with it.
My heart breaks for my kids when they cry. The momma bear in me wanted to go over and grab the coach by his ear and give him a piece of my mind. But I never would…like I said, Elijah gets his personality from me. I WAS Elijah…minus the enjoying soccer part. I hate confrontation.
Maybe I’m wrong and I tend to get overly protective when my kids are involved but, playing (or coaching a sport for that matter) isn’t all about winning. These kids are learning how to be team players, how to be good sports, learning fundamentals, and out there to also have a good time. They are learning life lessons that they will hold on to and remember for the rest of their lives.
To me, this goes further than just soccer or any other sport. Not “playing by the rules” in life won’t get you anywhere. Sure, you might think it does, but all you’re doing is short cutting yourself.
And, if you have little eyes watching you…you might think your are teaching them to score the winning goal, but you are only setting them up for failure.
So, think twice about the things you are doing to get the “W” on and off the field.
back to school chaos… and so it begins
I have enjoyed reading my parent friends’ blogs about sending their children out into the world. But this post is not about that. This year, I’m the one going back to school.
I can’t get nostalgic about how much my baby has grown or how proud I am of the man he is becoming. Not yet; not really. And in a back-to-school post written by me, that would seem disingenuous. Afterall, it’s because of school that I’m missing the ways in which my baby is growing. Because of school that everything he does seems to happen all at once, between the convenient hours of 5 and 7pm. School is not helping Remy grow, but instead is somehow keeping me from carefully observing the growing.
Even with my conflicted feelings over going back to school as a mother, I suppose our back-to-school flurry is much like anyone else’s. There are books to be ordered, notebooks to be bought and prepared. Syllabi to print and three-hole punch. Lunches to be made and packed in brightly colored containers. Kisses to be had at the door before a long day away.
This week was crammed full of school, work, and long days away from home. But today I got to hang out with Remy while Tom taught his morning class. Even though I needed to be reading or writing this blog post or networking on campus, I sat on the floor with Remy. While I folded his diapers, he unfolded them. While I sat back and spotted him from a safe distance, he climbed on the furniture like a monkey. While I was picking up his toys, he got caught in the bottom shelf of the bookcase (I really wish I had taken a picture of that one). While I was feeling overwhelmed (and, to be honest, throwing myself a tiny pity party of one), Remy fell down.
He was trying to swing from the chair to the couch so he could reach something in the middle of the end table. A bin of his toys was turned over on the floor and was preventing him from getting close enough to the table to reach what he wanted. He cried – loudly – for a moment, and I reached out for him. I was sure he would want to be cuddled. I thought he would want to give up on this (clearly impossible) endeavor and everything else. But I was wrong.
First, he noticed something interesting on the ground near where he had fallen. He picked up what looked like nothing but was probably fuzz. He turned it over and tried to eat it. It was interesting, but unsatisfying. Then he noticed the bin of toys. He grasped the handle and shook it around. He tried to eat it. Then he noticed the toys inside. He pulled them out, one by one. He tried to eat them. He threw them to see how far they would go. He laughed that crazy, maniacal laugh that babies have. Only then did he look around to see if I was near by and watching him – to see if I could believe his amazing good fortune.
As a brand new mom, I owed a lot of thanks to a great number of brave people who shared their painful but beautiful stories with me. While I was still pregnant, these stories of difficulty breastfeeding and feeling overwhelmed, of being uncertain and feeling “wrong” helped me feel at least a little prepared for what was to come. In those first weeks of being a new parent, I remembered all of those stories, and let them remind me let that I was not alone. I was especially grateful to the women, not all of them mothers, who spoke truth about depression and anxiety into my life. Their willingness to talk about the dark places they had left behind made a difference in the way that I prepared for the real possibility of postpartum depression. Even better, the dialogue that they have opened in our community has empowered other brave mothers-to-be to create their own plans.
This week, I do not have my own powerful story to share on overcoming depression. Instead, I want to thank everyone who is sharing their experiences. I want to encourage the dialogue that many are taking part in this week and beyond.
There are so many unknowns in becoming a new parent. In general, I think it is important for new moms and dads to come alongside soon-to-be moms and dads, and to share their own recent struggles and uncertainties. If your story involves postpartum depression, I encourage you to be brave and share that part of your story as well. If your story, like mine, involves its own trials and triumphs, I encourage you to be brave, and share those parts of your story.
Most of all, if you have a new momma friend, reach out to her if you have a moment. I am still close enough to remember how bewildering, how completely overwhelming, the process of becoming a new mom was. In those moments, it was often difficult to remember that there were others out there. And it was so wonderful to be reminded that I was not alone.