Category Archives: Kids

I Think I Know What I’m Doing, But Ask Me Again In Three Months

Jen at Conversion Diary asked for words of encouragement for a new mother. Well, as I come crashing in at the end of my third pregnancy I’m feeling rather smug regarding my parenting knowledge and thought I would share what my experience has taught me.


Now, I know everybody tells you this from the moment that the first pregnancy test comes back positive, but I will tell you that this is the hardest lesson to learn but also the most important. Every grandparent or ‘retired’ parent will tell you; “spend less time cleaning and more time playing”.  You know what? Listen to your elders.  Is my house a mess? Yes. Most days my sink is full of dishes, my laundry back-loaded, and toys in my family room. In exchange for that I have well-adjusted children who get to experience a mentally sane mother (on most days).  Some day I will have children old enough who can do the dishes, vacuum and make their own beds.  In the meantime, they clear their dishes, put their laundry in their hamper and do the best they can.  And you know what, I no longer care if my house is clean. I reject the idea that cleanliness is a sign of a successful mother.


Motherhood is filled with the most ridiculous moments and indeed most “mommy blogs” are filled with tales of such silliness. In my case I can recount stories of spilled paint on carpet, exploding poop on visiting relatives, puke in the middle of the mall, etc, etc. If you thought child delivery lacked modesty and was embarrassing, well, that is only the beginning.  You must learn to laugh at yourself or you will find yourself crying far too often.


At 39 years old and approaching the arrival of my third child I have learned this lesson.  I cannot do it all, and I’m not going to martyr myself in an effort to somehow garner praise and appreciation from some invisible entity.  Let me fill you in on a secret, your children will not appreciate you more for killing yourself and neither will your spouse.  They won’t appreciate you, they will resent you. I pay for a housekeeper to clean my house every two weeks. I pay for babysitters when I need a break or assistance to get things done.  Motherhood is a hard job and it is a 24 hour job – you cannot do it all the time


You are not going to be a perfect parent all the time.  You will snap, yell, scream, throw a grown-up tantrum, let them watch tv, eat popcorn, processed foods, sugar, soda pop, etc. None of these things make you a terrible parent.  One of my best friends is a family therapist and she has said to me on more than one occasion that unless I’m beating, purposefully neglecting or feeding my kids drugs I’ve got a long way to fall to become a bad parent. Most of us are consciously trying to read to our kids and provide a well-balanced diet in a loving and supportive environment.  It is just that that environment is hard to maintain 365 days a year. Some days you are going to be lucky if the kids spend the day watching PBS and eat macaroni and cheese for dinner.


When I was pregnant with Lucy I was terrified of the unknown.  What was it going to be like to be a parent? How was I going to handle it? How hard was it going to be? When I got pregnant with Max I had confidence and arrogance that was most definitely a mistake.  Max came out and was NOTHING like Lucy. It was as if I was a first-time parent all over again.  Now, pregnant with my third I recognize that I know nothing and there is peace in that.  No use in preparing for this child because it won’t matter. Whatever I anticipate or plan for will be wrong.

Finally, my mother-in-law has a sign on her desk that says “children grow to become the love they know”.  No matter how crazy my day is, or how much my children drive me crazy if I can end the day with a hug, kiss, snuggle and the knowledge that my kids know that they are loved, well, that is a successful day.


Sometimes an argument over a toy can lead me to say ugly words, causing my bottomless patience to vanish in a flash

Sometimes the simple sound of Max’s heavy breathing at night can awake worry and concern

Sometimes the smell of Lucy’s hair as it is nestled tightly under my nose can be comforting

Sometimes the non-stop prattle of school day stories from the back seat can disappear into the air with little acknowledgment from me.

Car pool, packing lunches, homework, breakfast, lunch, dinner, play time, clean up, stories and the days bleed together.

And then you hear it, read it, see it

Big eyes, small hands, sometimes with a look of fear, a look of resignation. Each story tells of loss, heart break and a child yearning for the love and comfort of a home like mine.  And then the feeling starts to spread. You suddenly are reawakened to the subtle noise of craft projects, sibling squabbles, and the noise of your own children.  The sounds of love, security and comfort. Sounds that these lost children, the children with no family or parents or future can only dream about.

I don’t worry about whether or not my children will eat.

I don’t worry about how safe it is for them to go to school.

I don’t worry if my children will be kidnapped or if bombs will destroy our house.

I’m grateful that my children won’t ever have to face the fear of an unknown future, go to bed hungry or worry about being cold at night. That gratitude, that sigh of relief we all release when watching the latest news story, is fleeting. We breath it, we mean it, but it is always short-lived. Perhaps this Thanksgiving I’ll try to be grateful for feeling more gratitude.

Once again, I am inspired by Scribbit’s Write Away Contest.

New Horizons

From early on David and I decided against sending our kids to preschool.  David comes from a bevy of educators who have all told us again and again that preschool is not necessary.  That society has created this feeling of urgency to shove kids into school at too young of an age and that anything our kids would learn at preschool they could comfortabley learn at home.  These people are experts.  These are people who have spent more time reading, studying and learning about early childhood development than I could ever imagine knowing in my entire lifetime.  No problem.

Lucy has either been home with me or with a nanny from the day she was born.  She has spent her mornings tumbling out of bed, shuffling around her pj’s and drinking chocolate milk like a drunk sailor. Over the years I have carefully tracked her development against what is expected of kindergarten age children and indeed Lucy has always met or exceeded developmental milestones — except for scissors. Our first note from Lucy’s kindergarten teacher was to let us know that for a five year old Lucy was really lacking in her scissor skills.  OH MY GOSH MY DAUGHTER WILL NEVER SUCCEED IN LIFE BECAUSE SHE CAN’T CUT ON A STRAIGHT LINE!!! For the record, I have always supremely sucked at cut and paste and I’m assuming that Lucy has inherited this apparent lack of scissor skills from me.

We had a nanny lined up at the beginning of the summer for Max but this person fell through and I had to start the search for a new care-giver.  We ended re-hiring a former nanny and this seemed like a perfect resolution.  Max would continue to stay at home, like his sister, and be cared for by the same person who nurtured Lucy.  Two weeks before the school year was to start for me that person informed us that she couldn’t do it.  I was screwed.  Two weeks is not nearly enough time to find a quality nanny.  We were left with few options.  We enrolled Max into preschool.

Yesterday was Max’s first day of preschool.  My anxiety and self-doubt as a parent over this decision is bottomless. I have never second-guessed and questioned a parenting decision as much as I have this one. David dropped Max at preschool yesterday.  David was filled with trepidation and viewed all the people at the school with a cynical eye.  Max, after a brief moment of shyness and tears, quickly settled down and never looked back.  When I eagerly picked him up he was cheerful and excitedly told me about his new friends.

This is the ultimate truth about parenting;  kids are usually ready for new challenges and experiences long before their parents are ready.  I can justify and explain this decision all day but it still won’t make me feel any better.

A Brand New Day

When you become a parent for the first time you are overwhelmed by a wave of understanding.  You are flooded with the biggest “aha” moment of your life.  Your parents weren’t as crazy as you thought they were.  However, this deeper understanding of your parents behavior and action doesn’t end when your child is born.  No, it continues to drip and dribble as you have new experiences with your own children.

Today was Lucy’s first day of school.  I have been anticipating this day since she was born.  I have spent a laborious amount of time researching and educating myself about schools, curriculums and the best option for my sweet, tender, shy, gentle little girl.  I felt confident in our choice and knew that she would blossom in the environment we selected.  Although Lucy was eager to go to school this morning she had the appropriate amount of anxiety.  She chatted nervously in the car and as I walked her to the front door of her classroom she squeezed my hand a little tighter.  The teacher swung the door open and Lucy easily fell into the routine and walked off without looking back.

Lucy's first day of school
Lucy's first day of school

I almost made it to the car before bursting into tears.  I sobbed uncontrollably, my breathing coming fast and in bursts.  As I sat there trying to regain my composure I talked to myself.  “She’s fine. She’s totally fine. You’ve done the right thing. This is the best thing for her. ” I took deep breaths and felt my body start to relax.  “It won’t be like this with Max. Max WANTS to go, he can’t wait to go. It is harder because Lucy doesn’t want to go. She’s scared.”  Pow! And just like that a flash of understanding.

How many times did my mother put on a stoic and strong exterior for me as she pushed me into my own life? How many times did she cry silently knowing that she was doing the right thing for me even though I was scared?  How many times did I mistake her lack of emotion as not caring or disinterest in my own fears?

Suddenly I no longer knew what I was crying about.  Was I crying because I was sad to see my little girl leave? Or was I crying out of acknowledgement of my own mother’s emotional sacrifice that had been ignored for so long? Or was it just because I’m pregnant and emotional?

When parents discuss what children bring to their lives they talk about the texture and richness. It is hard to explain and that is because it is multi-faceted.  Children allow you to explore and discover the world all over again.  They are a mirror holding you accountable for all of your behavior (both good and bad).  They are also your personal teachers, showing you your own life in a new and unexpected perspective.  The irony to being a parent is that the days and events that impact YOU the most are rarely the ones your children remember with any kind of significance.  For Lucy today was just the day she started school and for me it marked an emotional epiphany.

I’m Not Laughing At You, Well, Maybe

I stood in Hobby Lobby with the kids waiting in the perpetual line to check out.  As the kids perused all the tantalizing craft items and candy hung temptingly low I considered what the rest of our day looked like. We had a few more errands and then hibernation from the 100+ degree heat.  The kids had been getting restless at home and I was desperate to find something for them to do.  Just at that moment Lucy held up a package with three containers of what appeared to be an off-brand glitter version of Play-Doh.  She pleaded, “Mommy, can we PLEEEEEEEAAAASSEE get this?”  I looked at the price – a mere $4.  I considered the hours of pleasant play time this would provide while I did laundry and I said happily “sure, babe. This looks like fun.”  When we got the package home and opened it up I was a bit surprised to realize that it wasn’t actually the consistency of Play-Doh but more like — well — goobers.  It was slightly sticky, liquid and yet also a solid.


The kids could not have been more delighted and hours of play and experimentation transpired without a whimper of argument or whining.  The kitchen table was happily occupied and I took the time to finish up some chores around the house.  As I sat at my desk doing email Max walked in giggling and said to me, “Lucy is sad and hiding.”  I turned around and saw this:


He had stuck this material in his hair and I knew that was going to be VERY bad.  I leaped out of my chair and exclaimed, “WHERE IS YOUR SISTER?” Max, still finding the whole situation quite funny said slyly, “She’s hiding.”  I instantly knew that if Lucy was hiding it was bad.  I started calling her name but she was nowhere to be found.  After ten frantic minutes of searching I found her hunched behind the family couch, squeezed next to the wall.  Her low whimpers and cries barely audible.  “Lucy, what happened Honey? Are you okay?”  She stood up and stuck within her curly strands of hair was an entire container of this goober, glittery gunk.  It was spread evenly from roots to tip covering the entire front half of her scalp.  Tears were streaming down her face and I knew that she felt both shame and panic. “Baby, how did this happen?”  She lowered her eyes sniffling and just shrugged her shoulders.  I laughed. She cried harder. I suggested we take a picture to send to Daddy and she exploded in embarrassment, “NO!! DON’T TELL DADDY!! I DON’T WANT A PICTURE!!”  Her embarrassment was absolute and no amount of assurance from me was going to make her feel better. I calmed her down and told her we would wash it out of her hair and she shouldn’t worry.


We marched into the bathroom where I broke out the baby shampoo and started washing. And washing. And washing.  This goop (that was obviously made in China by people who don’t have children) would not come out of her hair.  Not even a little bit. I started pulling out every kind of cleaner I could think of to remove this stuff from her hair; baby oil, vinegar, adult shampoo, olive oil, dish soap.  Every new solution that I took out made Lucy cry harder and Max giggle.  Lucy was frantic and I was starting to get concerned that I was going to have to cut her hair off.  After an hour and a bottle of dish soap we finally got the goop out of her hair. Her eyes red and puffy from crying, she stood up and a meek smile spread across her face, “I love you Mama”. Not a true expression of affection, as much as a request to be reassured that I still loved her.  “I love you too Honey.  Mama isn’t mad at you. No worries. Okay?”  Lucy meekly nodded her head and toddled off to watch cartoons.

It was funny. As a matter of fact I burst out laughing several times during the process of washing her hair. It seemed like such a typical thing for a child to do and one of those great stories that every parent has.  And yet for Lucy, for sweet rule-abiding, must always be right Lucy, it was a moment of shame.  She had ventured outside of the rules (more than likely due to the prodding of her brother) and the universe instantly punished her for it.  My heart was sad for her and I wanted her to be able to laugh at herself, at the situation, to see the humor, but perhaps that is too much to ask of a five year old.

Dear Grandparents…

We, of my generations of mothers, have a question for our parents.  Where did all the toys come from?  Every parent I talk to between the ages of 25-45 complains about the size and quantity of toys that seem to be over-taking their homes.  None of us had a play room growing up and  all of our toys seemed to fit into our bedroom. We don’t remember baskets of toys or books tucked under coffee tables or concealed beneath TV sets.  We don’t remember birthday parties or Christmas’ when the opening of presents seemed to take longer than any other activity.  And yet, we all remember having toys, loving toys, and being well satisfied.  So where have they all come from?

Parents complain that grandparents have gotten out of control.  That each child is receiving five, six, seven presents from each set of grandparents.  Grandparents complain that parents are buying too many toys themselves and spoiling their children.  Well, somebody is buying toys and we all need to stop.  The same overture is heard again and again in my house during the holidays; “This year we are scaling back. We are giving fewer toys.” And yet, that never seems to happen. Our houses are bigger, our rooms larger, and yet the quantity of toys has grown exponentially larger. Why? I don’t think we all have more disposable income. When I compare my lifestyle now with what I had as a child I think it is similar.  I don’t buy toys regularly for my children, but periodically they might be allowed to purchase a toy for accomplishing a special goal, or because of a special behavior.  However, I recall my parents doing the same.  And yet, the absolute obnoxious amount of toys that seems to spill out of every corner of my house is ridiculous.

Does this have to do with the fact that we no longer trust our children to play outside unsupervised? or ride their bikes around the neighborhood without an adult? Does this have to do with fewer Moms being at home and so fewer houses that kids can run to during the day for an impromptu play date? Does this have to do with our desire to structure our children’s days into camps and lessons and school and athletic activities?

I am rather diligent about staying on top of my kid’s toys and regularly throwing out toys. I’m heartless. I’m brutal. Anything that might be worthy of another child is donated to church, or to charity.  And yet, even with my “take no prisoners” style of toy management I’m left overloaded.  I don’t even believe in “junk” toys but toys that stir imaginative play.  Even with that policy I can’t seem to control it.

So grandparents everywhere, tell me, what has changed?  Did you also face these problems? Where are the toys coming from? How do we as parents stop this madness?

End of Innocence

Lucy enjoying a S'more and the last days of summer
Lucy enjoying a S'more and the last days of summer

This summer marks the end of Lucy’s freedom.  Starting this August Lucy will begin Kindergarten and then her life of commitments and obligations will commence.  As adults we long for the days when we have “nothing” to do.  No meals to cook, no chores to do, no places to be, no people expecting anyting of us.  What happened to those days? We work our whole lives so we can retire and somehow, fleetingly, recapture the days between birth and five years old.  I’ve delayed this day for as long as I could. I didn’t enroll Lucy in Preschool.  She didn’t attend day care. We haven’t gotten her involved in sports, music, lessons, groups, organizations or anything that would place demands on her time.  She’s been allowed to float in her freedom.  She has evolved naturally as a person, experiencing life as it rose up to meet her.  But now, that all changes.  Now, she will learn about alarm clocks, and schedules, and due dates, and calendars and responsibilities.  I know she will love school (as her mother did) and I know she will be successful.  That is beside the point.  The innocence and carefree nature of her childhood is coming to an end and for that I’m sad.

Our Lesson Today Is…

Parenting is the kind of job that places relentless demands on a person.  You are never “off-duty”.  The duty may change, the needs alter, but the job is forever. FOR-EVER (yes, you young teenagers who are having sex I’m talking to you!) When you have small children, like I do, the demands are physical.  You go years with little or poor sleep. You are on constant alert to help with potty needs, help to get clothes on, in and out of cars, across the street, food to eat, etc, etc.  You become a servant whose only job is to attend the little selfish pixies that inhabit your home.  Some days you don’t mind, but many times you find yourself mildly resenting that nobody does those things for you.  Why doesn’t somebody get up and make ME breakfast? Why doesn’t somebody think to wash MY clothes? Why don’t I get to sit around and do the things I want to do all day long?

And then last week my mother-in-law (who will forever be known as Saint Nana) took my children.  I was once again alone and at home.  I had longed for this moment.  I counted down until my children would be out of the house and I could relish in the silence and solitude of my own home.  The moment that I had yearned for arrived and I was going to wallow in the beauty of not serving or helping a single person but myself.

By Wednesday I discovered that without my children my life is selfish and lacks purpose.  The whole reason why I had kids was because I was sick of thinking about myself and I was ready to take care of another person.  I wanted the opportunity to introduce a new person to this great world and help them see and experience it’s wonders.  I wanted to care for another person, serve another person, love another person and without them I’m a selfish turd.  I hated it.  It was nice to sleep in, until you realize that the reason why is because you have no reason to wake up.

I’m grateful for the time David and I had to reconnect as a couple and it was truly a gift. However, I’m more appreciative of having the opportunity to rediscover why I became a mother in the first place.