Posts Tagged ‘mother’

This is not working. My home life feels like a war zone. Everything is a battle. I have tried so many ways to get through to L, and he just seems hell-bent on choosing the fight every time.

Lately I’ve tried explaining that he has a choice. When he raises his hand to hit me I calmly say, “Think about what you’re about to do. Think about what you want. Think about how you can get what you want. Think about what will happen if you hit me.” This sometimes does the trick. On a dime he will switch from a hateful, spitting-mad psychopath to a sweet, affectionate boy. (Does this mean he’s a crazy person? Who can turn such big emotions on and off like that?)

Sometimes reminding him to think about it doesn’t work. When he’s just geared up for a fight, there is nothing anyone can do but live through what comes next.

I’m sick of it.

My two children are not getting the same kind of attention, love, and affection from me. I try. I really, really, really try to give L all the positive reinforcement, all the encouragement, all the praise, love, affection that I can. But it’s impossible to do sometimes.

At least 2/3 of my interactions with him are battles.

And those that aren’t battles are just battles that haven’t started yet. I can’t play with him because when the play time ends it’s a melt down. I can’t tickle, wrestle with, act silly with, chase…. I don’t get to enjoy him the way I want. The way he would love. With him I have to restrain myself. The more playful I am, the more crazy he gets, the bigger the fallout in the end.

It seems so unfair. All day long I could play with S. I get to chase her to put on her PJs. I’ve never been able to do this with L. Even when he was her age, he took the games too far. He’d run away, but not in a playful way. In a serious, I’m-running-away-from-you-and-when-you-catch-me-I-will-hit-and-kick-and-forever-try-to-escape-and-if-I-can’t-I-will-completely-fall-apart kind of way. It sucks.

And every time I play with S I think of all the good times L and I have missed out on. All the good times we’ll forever miss out on because he makes everything so hard.

I have tried lavishing him with attention and play, but he’s insatiable. It doesn’t matter if it’s one minute, thirty minutes, or three days. When it ends he goes nuts. Often he goes nuts in the middle just by taking things too far. Tickling turns into aggression. Chase turns into wrecking the house.

This isn’t fair and I find myself constantly thinking the terrible thought “Why can’t I just have two like S?” I think L has so much awesomeness going for him, but for some reason it’s like he’s choosing to just act terribly. I’m tired of it. I feel like it’s not fair to the rest of us.

Clearly I’m not handling him right. But every different thing I’ve tried has failed in a different way.


I started writing this while T wrangled with L in his worst form. I felt beat up, defeated. I felt sorry for myself. Then I had to step away from the computer because after T came downstairs L begged, through hysterical tears from the top of the stairs, “Mommy, please come help me calm down. Please come up and calm me down.” He needed to sit on my lap and rock like a baby. He needed me to help him take some deep breaths, whisper nice things, sing him a song. And then that’s that. He’s calm, he’s happy. Obviously his emotions are just too big for him to deal with. He’s feeling out of control.

And now I feel like a shitty mom for wishing he wasn’t him but some S-like child instead. He’s just a little person trying to deal, and not figuring out how everyone else is doing it. And I’m right there beside him on his roller coaster. Going from hopeful to angry to defeated to self-pitying to sad to guilty and back to hopeful again. It’s an exhausting cycle.

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It’s Mother’s Day – a day when we give and receive flowers and chocolate as a way of saying thanks for something that is impossible to properly say thanks for. Where to begin when thanking and appreciating your mother? Thanks for enduring all the discomforts of pregnancy, and sorry I kept kicking you in the bladder? Also, sorry I didn’t come out on time and you had to be pregnant for way too long. Oh, and thanks for giving birth. You did a bang-up job and I appreciate all that effort. And all those nights when I cried?Sorry about that.

Is it possible to begin there and still manage to properly thank a woman who still cares for me and helps me all the time and has for 35 years? Of course not. The only way to properly appreciate a mother is to become a mother yourself. Even then, it’s impossible really. Now I get the pregnancy, birth, late nights etc, but I still can’t properly appreciate her for the teen years, the 20’s, and as a grandmother. Trust me, my mom needs A LOT of appreciation for those teen years. Sorry about all that, Mom.

A couple of months ago my mother watched my two kids for 5 days, after gifting T and I enough airline miles to get us to Puerto Rico for a vacation. How freaking amazing is that? I can’t imagine surviving motherhood without her help. She has 5 grandchildren and has a real relationship with each one. Each child knows and loves Grandma, trusts Grandma completely as a caregiver. Lucky Grandma is close enough to these kids that she sees the real (read: bad) them that is usually reserved just for parents. How do you thank someone for that? For loving your kids?

The answer is you don’t. Such is the nature of motherhood. There is no possible way to thank, appreciate or repay my mother. So, all I can say is: Thanks, Mom. I know you spent so much time caring for and worrying about me. I kept you on your toes and certainly didn’t do anything to make your job at all easy. But I turned out OK. Thanks to you. Your unwavering love and support gave me the chance to go out and explore, because I knew I could (and would) always come back in the end. Now I have my own little hard-headed child and I can begin to see just how annoying challenging I was. Hopefully he’ll keep his authority-defiance to a minimum and I won’t have to suffer all the calls from principals and camp directors that you did.

You’re so freaking good at this mom-thing that you make the rest of us look bad. Happy Mother’s Day!

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I will never be a high achieving stay at home mom. Part of me wants to be, but a bigger part of me is lazy. Once in awhile I do something that those cool moms do. My something from today was going for a jog on the local bike path with S in the stroller and L on his bike. I saw a bunch of other moms out there doing the same. The kind I (sort of) want to be like. They looked like they do this sort of thing all the time. I did not. I looked like someone you might want to administer first aid to.

Anyway, the reason I will never be like these other moms is that their jog with their 2 kids was one tiny piece in their successful day of action, while I feel like I’m done. I did something good for me, fun for the kids, healthy for everyone. I’m done. I win for the day, day over. But the day isn’t over. It’s not even 10:00. What now? What more do these small people expect from me? A lot.

L wanted to go straight to a playground. That was not an option because of the aforementioned looking like I needed first aid problem. So after sitting around for awhile near the parking lot and calling it a “snack picnic”, (so I could stop sweating,) we came home. I told the kids it was lunch time and they are obediently eating the lunch I put in front of them even though it is only 10:45. When they finish, I will lie again and tell them it’s nap time.

They’ll go into their respective rooms to sleep/bounce off the walls and I’ll be able to shower. My greedy right-now-self is psyched for the early nap. I am completely disregarding my poor 2-hours-from-now self who will have a longer than usual afternoon with 2 wakeful kids. Instead of being satiated by the morning’s family fun, they will be bottomless pits of craving for more of the good stuff.

So all of you moms who fill your days with family jogs, then family baking, then family puzzle making, family imaginative play, family chalk drawing, and other enriching activities, I envy you – but not quite enough to be you.

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Recently I was asked in a comment about how I made the decision to have a second baby. This is a seriously good question, especially considering the trouble I had with L over the last year. The simple answer is that having only one child was never really a consideration for me. So it wasn’t a question of if but a question of when.

Luckily we decided to try for #2 before L was 2 years old. Had I still not been pregnant by the time L morphed from sweet but challenging toddler to complete evil monster villain (somewhere around 2.5), I don’t know if I would have gone through with #2. The year from almost 3 to almost 4 was so so so hard. L was not easy to be around, to put it mildly, (way mildly – he was extremely, impossibly, unfathomably unpleasant,) but thankfully S was already here by then.

So now I have my sweet but challenging 4-year-old and my sweet 1.5-year-old and I’m done. Right? Totally. I’m completely 100% mostly almost sure of it. What more could I want? I had 2 healthy pregnancies, have two healthy kids, have one of each sex – why push my luck? Also, I can sort of see the end of the tunnel. Baby days are close(ish) to behind me. Soon I’ll have a family that can go places and do things and not be encumbered by naps, diapers, and other babyish stuff.

But babies are just so cute. Can’t argue with that logic.

Unlike normal people, I liked being pregnant and I liked the newborn phase. I love that warm little floppy helpless bundle, even if it means colic, no sleep, sore nipples and diaper blow-outs. I recognize that this feeling I have is not remotely coming from my rational brain. It’s coming from some evolutionary, biological, clock-ticking, animal place and I should know better. And I do. Mostly. Luckily, T totally knows better and has not even the slightest inclination towards having another baby.

So, back to the question of how one arrives at the decision to have or not to have another child? I don’t really have an answer for that. For having a second, we didn’t really ever consider the alternative so there was no decision process beyond timing. As far as having any more, I feel like the partner who is done has veto power over the partner who may want one more. So we’re done. Well, at least we’re shelving the topic. For now. No, really, we’re done. Almost certainly absolutely probably so.

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As I type this my kids are nearly 100 miles away from me. I’m not talking in the figurative sense – as in I’ve reached some awesome meditative state and/or plugged them into Sprout and I’m looking at the bottom of my second glass of wine – but in the literal sense. As in they are an hour and a half away from me. Sounds pretty good, right? Wait. It gets better. Very, very early tomorrow morning, T and I will get up (happily) and hop on a flight for a 5 day trip to Puerto Rico. No kids. Just us.

The point of this post isn’t to gloat over my amazing luck, but to give a massive shout out to my spectacularly awesome parents. Not only are they looking after the kids while we’re away, but as a gift to T for his last birthday, my mom gave him enough airline miles to get us our tickets to PR.

So, if you want to know what the best mother on Earth looks like, that’s it. She’s the mom who takes her kid’s kids, and sends her kid and husband away for a vacation together. Don’t bother trying to be the best mom in the world, that spot is already occupied by my mom.

Thank you, Mom!!!

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Nicole over at Ninja Mom started a meme called Character Assassination Carousel, in which we get to have our revenge on the children’s books we hate but are forced to read over and over again. She kicked it off with a letter to Shel Silverstein in the voice of the much aggrieved tree from The Giving Tree. Next to ride the carousel was Kristine from Wait in the Van who wrote a hilarious and scathing attack on Love You Forever. Now it’s my turn and I’m a little pissed because those two already wrote about my most-loathed books. Fear not! I have enough vitriol to hate more than just two books!

I’m the type of person who needs my own space. I’m social (a little), like being around people (honestly, I like very few people), but really need down time, alone time, me time. I’ve always been very independent. Basically I’d be fine on a deserted island and probably wouldn’t resort to personifying a volley ball for company. I’ve spent a good deal of my life trying to get away from people without hurting their feelings, with mixed success. It’s not you, it’s me. (Are you wondering where I’m going with this?) All of this is to say that I sympathize so much with the little bunny in The Runaway Bunny.

I know, I know, this is a much-loved classic. What kind of mother am I to criticize Margaret Wise Brown? Meh, I hate this book. The poor little bunny just wants some space! But his mom does not get it. At all. Not only does she want to be with him at all times, she wants to smother him. She just can’t hear her poor little bunny’s pleas for freedom and independence. It begins with the little bunny’s declaration that he is going to run away.

“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.”

That’s right kid. I own you!

RunAway Bunny

Clearly, this bunny wants to get a little distance between himself and his suffocating mother bunny. The book continues with the little bunny thinking of different ways to get the hell away from his psycho mom. He wants to be rock on a mountain, but the mother bunny threatens to become a mountain climber. He decides he’ll become  a boat and sail away from her. But she one-ups him by becoming the wind so she can “blow you where I want you to go.”

That’s right kid. I own you. Can you imagine being this mother bunny’s boyfriend and trying to break up with her? She has crazy stalker written all over her. You just know she’s perfected the ominous-love-note-made-up-from-letters-cut-out-of-magazines trick. Sheesh! No wonder there’s no daddy bunny. He probably had to get a restraining order.

Here she even disguises herself as a tree so he unwittingly lands on her when he's a bird needing to rest. Holy psycho!

Being that he is just a little bunny, his crazy mother (totally resisting the urge to bring Blossom and attachment parenting into this…) can out-think him in her attempts to hover over him for always. Outmatched, he finally gives up. You can almost hear his hope dying as he realizes that he is stuck with her.

“Shucks,” said the bunny, “I might as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”

I give up. You own me.

Poor little bunny.

Next month Beta Dad, whose blog is worth checking out if for no other reason than the awesome header picture, will be riding on the Character Assassination Carousel. I wonder what book he’ll skewer?

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Why should my kid know the alphabet? Because “the man” says so? Well, fuck the man. I don’t like the letters C, P or U so I’m not going to teach them to my kids. If they decide, at some later date, that they do like those letters, then they are free to add them into the alphabet, wherever they please. My children are special small people and I believe they know what’s best for themselves.

That’s right. My kids know what’s best. That’s why L has cookies for breakfast and is allowed to use the stove. If he burns himself, which I doubt he will, he will learn organically that placing his face on the element is a poor choice.

S does not like her carseat. She’s 1.5 now and old enough to know what’s best for her. I don’t give a shit that “the man” says it’s the law. Laws stifle my children’s freedom to develop at their own pace, into whomever they please. So I allow S to climb around the car freely as I drive. People are shocked by this and want to take my daughter from me. It’s not their fault that they feel this way. They harbor long-standing resentments towards everyone because they were made to share as children, and are still trying to seek retribution for having to give other kids a turn with the shovel in the sandbox.

I don’t stop my children from hitting your children. Confused? Don’t be. If my child wants to hit yours, yours probably deserves it. By not forcing my child to keep his hands to himself, my child will learn the natural way that hitting does not gain friends. Your child is free to walk away from my child. I am not willing to shove nonviolence propaganda down his throat just to please judgmental parents, society at large, and the children mine are beating on.

I don’t discourage my children from putting forks into outlets or drinking from the toilet, if they feel so inclined. Those might not be my choices, but they are not me. They are free to make their own choices, even if it means that I will suffer the heartache of mourning the loss of my electrocuted toddler. At least she had her freedom.

I don’t have to conform to your ways because I’m not going to send my children to school. They won’t be forced to confront society until they are adults, or whenever they decide they are ready to move out of my home. At that time, they will have the maturity to navigate the world on their own, because I’ve let them navigate the world on their own since the day they were born.

I’m not judging you for kowtowing to “the man” and sheepishly doing random things like teaching colors just because you’ve been told to. (If my kid wants to call blue red, then that’s his creative right.) I’m not better than you just because I’m not stunting my children’s individuality like you are.

I know I’m really cerebral about this stuff, but that’s just because I’m really freaking smart. Smarter than you are. But that’s OK.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out Blossom’s latest. I probably should have encouraged you to read that first, but I thought it would be funnier this way. I really don’t see my post as much more outrageous than hers.

Blossom says, “I have heard people say that those who force their kids to share, be polite, and excel on adult terms are really just creating children who are monkeys…” Really, Mayim? You’ve heard people say this? What people? Where? Well, I’ve heard people say that those who force their babies out of their vaginas are really just birthing children who are witless losers. I would never push my baby to come out if she didn’t want to. Just because by our “adult terms” we could both die if I don’t push. Why force your baby to enter the world that way? If my baby wants to be born, she’ll come out on her own. She knows what’s best for her.

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My family is a unit, here to support and love one another blah blah blah blah blah. That’s all true, but in day-to-day reality, for all intents and purposes, they are the enemy. And no ordinary enemy either. My children are super-villains. My husband my arch-rival. What? That’s not how you’d describe things in your home?

The super-villains adeptly lure you in to a false sense of security. They use their (evil) big eyes, their (evil) cherub faces, their (evil) giggles, their (evil) little hands held tightly in your own all to entice you to let your guard down, to reveal the chink in your armor. They want to know your kryptonite. (Yes, for the purposes of this post I am a superhero, what of it?)

Turns out I can be brought to my knees begging for mercy by 8 or more consecutive hours of constant noise. That is this superhero’s weakness. And L knows it. S is probably onto me too, but L knows for sure. Now I live in fear: what is he plotting? How is he going to use my weakness against me?

So far, he just keeps perfecting his attack methods. He knows all sorts of noises, some are better (worse) than others at breaking me down. When his voice gets tired, after maybe 7 hours or so, he knows that banging an action figure against something hard again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again…. will bring about his desired result. Evil, I tell you.

I spend my time trying to make conversations end. This is not easy. So far, impossible. What if I just don’t answer or respond in any way to his comment? Let’s examine a recent conversation where I employed this method. In the car we were discussing the movie “Beauty and the Beast.” He asked me who the beast is:

me: You know, the one who is a beast.

L: Who? What beast?

me: The guy. You know, the guy. The one the movie is about. The one who is a beast.

L: Which one?

me: The one who is mean and scary at the beginning but turns out to be nice in the end.

L: He’s still mean at the end.

At this point, I realize that this conversation is stupid and is unraveling me. He’s got the last word. I just won’t say anything else and we’ll be done with it.

L: He’s still mean at the end.

L: He’s still mean at the end.

L: He’s still mean at the end.

He doesn’t just say it over and over again. He waits 2-3 seconds between each time. Just long enough for me to think he’s finally finished.

L: He’s still mean at the end.

How many times is he going to repeat himself? Does he think I can’t hear him? What exactly is he looking for from me? I’ll just continue to not say anything. Surely, he’ll shut up soon.

L: He’s still mean at the end.

L: He’s still mean at the end.

Are you wondering how many times he said this until either a) he stopped of his own volition or b) I finally acknowledged him? The answer is 14. He said it 14 fucking times and at that point I was tempted to drive the car into a tree. Instead I decided to give him the smallest acknowledgement possible.

me: mmm-hmmm.

L: Is he still mean at the end, Mommy?

He’s done it. Used his evil powers persistence to trap me back into this asinine conversation. If you’re thinking that this isn’t so bad, multiply this conversation times a day’s worth. He’s up around 6:30 and goes to bed around 7. Do you know how many annoying conversations he can squeeze into that time? A lot.

But it’s not just annoying conversations. I’ve learned that with the Y-chromosome comes a whole host of sound effects. These include (but are not limited to): engine noises, brake noises, gun noises, laser noises, crashing noises, explosion noises, swords-swishing-through-air noises, and fart noises. Add these and the conversations to constant movement and my head explodes. SUPER-VILLAIN!

S is a mini super-villain. Maybe a villain-in-training or VIT. Her sound effects are vastly different and mostly include several unique and distinct whines and cries which she uses to destroy me on a daily basis.

As I mentioned, T is my arch-rival. I compete daily with him to be the one doing dishes rather than putting L to bed, the one “stuck” with S on my lap rather than the one playing some annoying L-game, the one still in bed rather than the one not still in bed. I will run to the kitchen and plunge my hands into raw chicken just so I can say “Honey, my hands are dirty and I think S needs to be changed, could you please do it?”

I live with the enemy. Who will prevail in the end? (That’s easy, totally them.)

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This morning was more stressful than most. We noticed last night that the house was cold. Nothing unlivable, just a cool 63 degrees. A few pairs of fleece jammies for the kids and extra blankets for us and we all went to sleep just fine. This morning – 53 degrees. I don’t know why, but 53 degrees in a house feels so much colder than 53 degrees outside.

We were frozen and couldn’t be in the house. No problem. Good mommy takes this as an opportunity for a special morning out! We go out for breakfast. The kids are starving by the time we get to the restaurant and I let L pick out a muffin from the display case. He comes back to the table followed by the waitress carrying a cheese danish. OK, so the kids can have a cheese danish. What a fun mommy I am! I feel like I’m winning the morning. We follow-up with some hot food and hot coffee (just for me) and we’re on our way.

Driving down the road where the speed limit is 40, so it’s safe to assume I was moving at 45, a bunch of bad things happened at once. First, I noticed that the cars behind me and in the oncoming lane started honking, and the drivers all slowed down and waved their arms around. At the very same time L started screaming. The car filled with a strange, loud whooshing sound. And it got cold. I glance in my rearview at crying, panic-stricken L and I see that his door is open. All the way open. Wide friggin’ open!

A note to Subaru manufacturers: you know that little white switch you’ve placed on the inside edge of the door, right at child-height, which turns the childproof locks on/off? Well, guess what? Children can play with it. And, apparently, they do. Maybe consider a different location?

A note to moms: when your kid does something that scares the living crap out of you, just let your natural emotions about it show. Doing so will scare the crap right back out of the kid, who will swear to you he will never ever ever do it again if you just calm down and promise you still love him.

Back home intact and in time for the heating guys to show up. 2 hours later the heat is back on and as I type this it is a balmy 57 degrees in here and rising. Soon I’ll take my coat off and be able to feel my fingers. In the meantime, this is what S has been wearing inside the house:

Despite how horribly unflattering this would be on me, I wish I had a fleece jumpsuit like this.

Under this all fleece number, she has on fleece pants, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a sweater.

Despite more temptation than usual, I have not started drinking.

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I’m sure you’ve all been wondering about and losing sleep over L’s poop issues. I was going to write this great post about how he hasn’t had any Miralax for almost 2 weeks, and he’s been going, without that much of a fight, a couple of times per day with nary a pooped-in pair of undies to be tossed! I’ve been ruminating on this great update post in my mind for the last day or two.

Then just now happened. Just now is not a good mommy moment for me. It’s bedtime. The kid has gotta go. It’s obvious. He stands like he’s gotta go; he squirms like he’s gotta go; he smells like he’s gotta go. So, I tell him it’s time to go.

“NO! I DON’T POOP ANYMORE! I WILL HOLD IT IN FOREVER!!” Out of nowhere. Suddenly tears.

Next comes me trying reason, trying kindness, trying scary-serious voice, trying wrestling and finally giving up and picking the kid up, tossing him into his bedroom while saying (yelling), “Fine! Then you can go straight to bed with no books, no PJ’s, and no brushing your teeth! Your teeth will all rot right out of your head!” Door slams.

He’s upstairs now crying, “Get me out of here!”

I am the best.mom.ever. Anyone want some advice? Come to me! I’m sooooo good at this. I can’t believe that it’s actually my job to raise this child without entirely fucking him up. Clearly, I’m not capable of this.

Hang on, here he comes….

OK, it’s now 20 minutes later. L came down fairly calm. I asked if he was ready to go and he said yes and went. Then asked, “Are you so proud of me?” I told him that I was not. That I would have been proud if he just went in the first place. Mean, I know.

Well, now he’s in bed fully evacuated at least. I suck at this job.

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I saw a friend of mine yesterday with her brand new, less than a week old baby, her third. I asked her how she was and she said, “fragile.” I can’t think of a more perfect description of myself immediately after having each of my babies. I felt like a broken live-wire, with my emotional nerve endings frayed, buzzing and sparking in their new exposed state. The slightest touch or breeze and they’d shock and jolt me. When kindly people came by to drop off a meal, meet the baby, see how I was, I lied and said “great!” when asked.

Here I am, self-proclaimed teller of motherly truths and I perpetuated a very damaging lie to brand new moms. I was not great, not fine. I was a mess and felt like I should not be trusted with this brand new baby. By the time S came around, I knew the baby would be fine, but I was again shocked, raw and frayed. In a moment, I could go from rapturous wonder at my new perfect baby, to despondently crying. My moods shifted on the slightest notions. I was fragile.

I had been told I’d be hormonal. And the few people who saw my emotional flare-ups reminded me that I was hormonal. But this was more, different. I had been hormonal before. Afterall, I just finished pregnancy. But pregnancy is different. It feels transient and thus less real. This felt permanent. I felt crazy. And I hid it.

Of course it was not permanent, and I was hormonal. Slowly my self emerged again, well, maybe a more tired shadow of my self. The fragility gave way to a new brand of strength. An ability to hold it all together, to move forward, to lead myself and my kids through each day no matter what presents itself: days of no sleep, weeks of colic, illness. This is the stuff that makes a mom a mom. It’s not something I could have predicted or had heard about. And even though I experienced it with L, I doubted it when S came along. But it did come back, reinforced and stronger.

I’m certainly not saying that my life is without challenges and I’m without days when I feel harried, emotional, and like I can’t possibly take another minute. But it passes and I do take another minute. And another after that. I don’t really know what the purpose of this post is. It kept me up until 1:30 AM writing itself in my head. Maybe I just need to publicly acknowledge that I lied to everyone when I first had my babies.

I have a few friends who are expecting their first baby and I hope they read this. It’s just my own experience, but in case you’re feeling fragile in the days and weeks immediately postpartum, know that you’re not alone, you’re not a bad mother, you’re not crazy, and that you will come out on the other end as a bona-fide mom. If you need help, ask for it. And if any twit tells you anything stupid like “it only gets harder from here,” or dismisses your overwrought anxiety, you can punch them in the face and blame your hormones.

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Kitty is Depressed

Generally, when I think of my role as a mother, I’m thinking of my relationship to L and S. But long before I had them, long before I was even married, waaaaay back in 1999, I adopted a 4-year-old cat from the local animal shelter and thus first became a “mom”. So, it follows that my WTF moments sometimes involve her. Today’s WTF moment is the fact that my cat is on Prozac.

No, L’s defiance and contrary streak haven’t been getting to the cat as well. It’s actually S who was my cat’s last straw. This second child, another insult to my cat’s position in the family, just put her over the edge.

It started as a mystery. When S was a couple of months old and I was putting her down on the floor on blankets or playmats, I noticed a strong pee smell in the area. I couldn’t find the source. Finally, I found a wet spot on a blanket left on the floor. I blamed L. I thought he was acting out as a reaction to the baby and that he peed on her blanket. I got mad. He apologized. I thought that was that.

The pee smell persisted and one day I caught my cat in the act. (Why didn’t L deny the charge?) I could not believe it. This was a cat that had no annoying habits. She never meowed, never woke us up, didn’t scratch, claw at things etc. She was the perfect cat. I brought her to the vet. Clean bill of health. Went home with the advice not to leave baby blankets on the floor.

To compress a months’ long saga into a short one, the pee apparently soaked through the blankets into the carpet and once the smell is there the cat keeps peeing there. I used every cleaning product and concoction known to man. It’s through the carpet to the padding and probably the wood underneath. My only solution will be to replace my carpeting. Bad cat.

Months went by and we lived like this. The cat peed. I got crazy mad. I cleaned to no avail. Finally, I had enough. I brought her to the vet. Went home with the advice to sequester my cat to a different, smaller, area of the house. So, that’s how the cat came to live only in my master bedroom and bathroom. She has almost no human contact during the day. After a month of this, I guess she had enough, and she began her campaign of biological warfare.

As T and I climbed into bed, the cat jumped up and pooped in the middle of the bed. Holy shit. Despite every urge to take her outside and throw her in the woods  right then and there, we decided that what she needed was more attention and affection.

The next two days saw the cat reintroduced to the rest of the house, and to human contact. She was pet, brushed and held. She was around people all day. Surely she’d be happy now? Well, that’s when she peed on the bed and started peeing on the couches. That brings me to today. I called the vet. Prozac is this cat’s last shot. I’ve been feeling horrible all day knowing that soon I might be making a decision to put the cat down. She’s 15 years old, poops and pees everywhere – this is not a cat I can live with, and not a cat that is adoptable. This is sad. Maybe we should both start the Prozac.

So, wish us luck. Hopefully the Prozac will work; otherwise I’ll be facing a terrible decision. 😦

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What I’m doing isn’t working. L is not becoming more compliant and cooperative no matter how much I bribe, punish and reward him. I suddenly see that I need a whole new approach. No matter how much I try, and no matter how much I just wish it would work, bending L to my will is just not happening. Somehow, L and I have to work together to get our days going more smoothly.

So, here’s my mission: to create a more peaceful home. My plan? Well, I barely have a clear idea of that just yet. But this will happen. Loosely, the plan involves:

  • trying to see the day and each obstacle through L’s eyes;
  • trying to incorporate him in a way to make things work for both of us, so he feels empowered and respected;
  • trying very, very, very hard not to lose my cool (which, by the way, I lose so often that I don’t even know if I have any left);
  • trying to always be mindful that he’s 3, and that’s why he’s acting like that;
  • trying to have fun and be fun.

I keep hearing that I’m not the only one struggling with these things, so I’m going to share my experiment with you all. I’ll post about my successes and, embarrassingly, about my failures. I’ll tell you what is working and what is not. I’ll let you know if, in a month from now, I’m better able to enjoy spending time with L, rather than constantly counting down the time until bedtime. I’m sick of being irritated all the time. I’m sick of missing out on all the fun we should be having. Consider the new leaf turned. (All of this is very easy to say right now, because L isn’t home. Let’s just see how I do when I’m facing the real thing!)

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I’m accustomed to L’s scrapes and contusions. They are an often repeated fact of his life. Several times, every day, the following can be heard in my house:

  • quick pitter-patter of little feet
  • large crashing sound, (sometimes followed by smaller, follow-up crashing sounds; sometimes accompanied by floor actually shaking)
  • a beat
  • “I OK!”

Mostly injuries are limited to minor bumps and bruises. Occasionally a huge egg sized lump on the back of his head. Usually blood is at a minimum except for his string of falls back between about 1-2 years old when he repeatedly put his teeth through his lip. These were disturbing and gross, and probably, retrospectively, needed stitches since I now affectionately call him snaggle-mouth. (But T assures me that this deformity is really only noticeable by me.) Poor L is constantly covered in bruises that I can’t account for. Sometimes I’ll get him up in the morning to find he has a black eye – a surprise to both of us. I think he actually had a cracked rib for a while since he complained of tenderness and had some pale bruising in the area which lasted for weeks.*

But, it’s not L’s injuries I want to talk about today. It’s S. She’s on the go. And, I’m afraid, she’s stupid. She now crawls quickly and with purpose, and pulls up on everything. The stupid comes into effect in her choices of things to pull up on, and the fact that she looks straight down at her own hands while crawling, instead of looking ahead at oncoming objects like coffee tables. The latter results in bashing her head against said objects all day long. The former results in her attempting to pull herself up on objects of questionable stability. Like, say, a can of soup laying on its side which she has just pulled down (narrowly missing her little feet) from the bottom shelf of our pantry.

I’m sure that getting used to L hurting himself was an adjustment for me. It’s so commonplace now that it’s hard to remember if I was upset by each injury early on. But with S, I’m having a hard time adapting. It seems like only moments ago that she was this tiny, screaming bundle, always carefully protected in my arms, in a sling, strapped into a swing moving 35 mph in hopes of stopping the screaming (she was colicky early on). It seems sudden that she is now moving under her own power, controlled by her clearly feeble mind. I’m not ready for her bumps and bruises.

But my attempts at protecting her are futile. She is one determined little baby and she will not be held. She kicks, arches and suicide dives in such quick succession that sometimes I’m lucky to catch an ankle as she flings herself free from me. She isn’t fooled by my constant redirection (literally picking her up and facing her in another direction). If she spies a can of soup she wants to lean on to stand up, she’s damn well going to make it there and stand up. But, oh, Stupid Baby, why can’t you learn that cans of soup roll, and that this endeavor invariably ends with you falling on your little face on the tile floor?

Worse, her injuries aren’t merely limited to her own doing. She also has L to contend with. L, who loves her dearly, but also has an insatiable curiosity regarding cause and effect which leads him to experiment until he learns precisely where the point is where S will cry, where I will get mad. He is a thorough scientist, and although in my opinion he has found this point again and again, he is apparently driven by a surprising need for exactitude in this area.

Hopefully S’s mind will sharpen as she gets older and she won’t be saddled with being dim (and clumsy) her whole life. If not, her dogged determination should get her through school well enough. As for me, I’m not bothering to hope that she’ll stop hurting herself all the time. I’m just hoping I get used to it.

*I did talk to a doctor about L’s rib. He said that it certainly may be cracked, but there’s nothing to do for it, so that was that. Neither L nor I know how he may have cracked a rib.

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When I was about 5 years old I went with my parents to pick out a new Irish Setter puppy. My memories of this day are little fuzzy, but I clearly remember my first encounter with the puppies. It seemed to me that there were hundreds of them and all of them were jumping up on me in frenetic, hyper, excited greetings. It was entirely overwhelming and hilarious. They were so cute and there were so many of them and they were so hyper!

That scene comes to mind whenever my family gets together. Between my sister and I, there are five kids: twin 5-year-old girls (Nieces 1&2), a 3-year-old boy (L), a 19-month-old boy (Nephew), and an 8-month-old girl (S). The five of them together under one roof is just like those wagging puppies. It is noisy, overwhelming, messy, wiggly, jumpy and cute. And I am struck with this terrifying thought: all of these children could belong to one family. The spacing is such that one woman could have borne them all. I’m happy I’m not that woman. If you are that woman, may your wine cellar be forever stocked.

Back to Mother’s Day. My family is celebrating today at my parent’s place. Nana and T stayed home and are putting up sheet rock on my basement walls (did I mention that Nana is like a pioneer woman?). At this moment the kids are all in the kitchen wreaking some kind of havoc. The men, (my brother, brother-in-law and father,) are all crowded around my brother-in-law’s new iPad, entirely ignoring the kids. My sister is doing her best to ignore them too, and I’m hiding out in here on the computer. Leaving my mom to fend for her brood of grandchildren. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

We should all be catering to her, but we’re not. We can’t help ourselves. She’s our mom. If she’s in the room, my responsibility as chief-woman-in-charge is immediately relieved, same for my sister. With her in the room we know that our kids will be looked after, entertained, spoiled a bit and safe. I can briefly remove my mom-hat, the one that makes my brain constantly swirl with the current and impending needs of those around me. I can lose track of who peed when. It’s like a tiny vacation. (My before kids self is stunned that my after kids self thinks being in the next room from 5 very loud kids for a few minutes is a vacation.)

So, I need to remember this moment when I’m feeling unappreciated and unthanked; when L doesn’t realize that everything I do is for his benefit; when he calls me a bad mom just because he needs to wear shoes to go to the fair; when it is just taken for granted that I will have a plan, that I’ll have a snack in my bag, that I will know what to do, that I will have a band-aid, that I’ll know when small people need to pee, sleep and eat, that in my car there will be a change of clothes, drinks, food, a ball and a kite. I need to remember that as soon as my mom walks into the picture, I take for granted that she will hold all those responsibilities. The job of motherhood doesn’t end when our children are grown, or even when they have kids of their own. Once you start toting around snacks in your bag, you never stop.

Can you ever thank your mom enough? I’ve only been a mom for 3 years and already I know my kids can’t thank me enough. My mom’s been at it for nearly 40 years. And she’s damn good at it. Mom, I really do appreciate you, even if I’m too thoughtless to always show it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

OK, I’ll come out of the relative peace of the computer room now and join in the chaos. Happy Mother’s Day!!

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She’s seen it all now. All my effort to pretend I had a nice family for nothing. Nana witnessed me drag a screaming L to the car this morning, pin him in his carseat and forcibly strap him down as he thrashed, cried, shrieked, kicked, hit and tried to bite me. She then saw me turn to my husband, her son, and yell at him about something or other. Then, after storming back inside to retrieve my crying baby in her carseat, I proceeded to yell at both T and Nana about how helpful they were being standing there watching all of this.

As I drove away, after my initial mean thoughts about how useless they were and how I had to do everything, I thought about what Nana must be thinking. How much I’ve changed since she first met me 10 years ago as a carefree, adventuring young 20-something traveling with my boyfriend, who I obviously adored, and did not berate or yell at. What changed me into this control-freak-bitch?

I think life would be so much easier if I could just clone myself a few times over. That way, all the errands would be run right, the dishwasher would be loaded correctly, the laundry folded, the kids put to bed in a timely, orderly fashion etc. Everything would be done right. Instead, I have to deal with these other people helping me, and doing things all wrong.

When it’s just T, things generally run pretty smoothly. I don’t really mind when I find another pair of PJs under the PJs I just took off the baby. I think it’s weird, but I don’t care. (This happened 2 days ago. After all this time having kids, WTF is he thinking? Wasn’t it hard to squeeze already footed-feet into the second pair of footie PJs?) We have a system for dividing the labor so we don’t really step on eachother’s toes too much. I load the dishwasher; he unloads. I do all the laundry, but he carries the heavy basket upstairs. He changes all lightbulbs; I clean the bathrooms. All in all, things work and we live in peace.

Adding another adult in the house has me beside myself. I don’t have as much control over everything as I like. This lack of control makes me feel uncomfortable. I know that having everything done my way is not a life or death situation. I even know that other people *could* do things better than I do them. (Nevermind, I don’t believe that for a second.) Why do I need everything done my way so badly? Why can’t I just relinquish some of this control?

I know it would make me happier if I just didn’t care. I’d be happier if I didn’t care that L wasn’t dressed before coming downstairs this morning, making getting him dressed a 1/2 hour ordeal involving tears and yelling and even a time out, rather than a 3 minute nothing if done first thing in his room. And why does it bother me so much that Nana wants to handwash everything instead of just putting it all in the dishwasher? She’s the one slaving over the sink, why does it drive me crazy? I’ll tell you why: because I am a control-freak-bitch.

I am sure I’m not the only one. Motherhood changes some of us into these people we sometimes don’t like. It’s insult added to injury. Not only do we not look like our younger selves, but our personalities are worse as well. It’s another one of those terrible stereotypes about women and wives. It’s the harpy wife who gives chores, nags, and isn’t pleased by the job done. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want poor T to have to live with that person! But, am I turning into her? What kind of message does that send my kids about what a woman’s job is, and a man’s worth?

Isn’t it typical that even when I’m trying so hard to make everything go right for my kids, I’m still unhappy that I’m not doing a good enough job, because just by virtue of trying I’m teaching my kids something bad? Ugh, can’t it ever just be easy? Forget saving for college, I need to save up for my kids’ therapy.

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As I write this it’s 6:38AM. I’ve been awake for hours. Technically, if you’re never really asleep, then I don’t think you can measure how long you’ve been awake. Perhaps it’s more accurate to measure how long it’s been since I resigned myself to wakefulness. HOURS. Coffee isn’t ready yet. I’m in my PJs. I’m grumpy. People beware. Problem is, I have to be nice. I have to present my nice family. Nana arrived late last night for her 3 week visit. She hasn’t seen the kids yet. She was last here when I was 6 months pregnant. Everyone needs to get reacquainted, or acquainted for the first time.

We spent the night at my parents’ apartment after Nana’s arrival. My parents have an all-purpose children’s bedroom consisting of a crib, a Pack n’ Play, and two twin beds. (They have 5 grandchildren, so they are ever-prepared for overnight guests of small stature.) After over 24 hours of travel, it was only fair for Nana to get the guest room; so I bunked with the kids. S in the crib, L and me in the twin beds. I can tell you unequivocally that L and S are the world’s worst roommates. All night they take turns squeaking, snarfling, grunting, crying, farting, whining, coughing, sneezing and on one occasion screaming out “I can’t see anything!”There was also one episode where L was singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” while banging his head against his pillow.

By 5 this morning, both were in my twin bed with me. For some reason, even though L is normally hot, his feet are always like ice. S is no longer the snugly baby she once was. She’s now a wriggley thing who pinches and grabs at faces and pulls hair. These do not make good bed-mates.

So, here I am. Tired. Irritated. Knowing that my sleepless night is not going to be made up for in extra sleep anytime soon. And I have to go into the other room and play nice. I have to act as translator as I’m the only one bilingual in L’s toddler-speak and Nana’s accent. I have to balance S’s stranger anxiety with Nana’s feelings and excitement to meet her first granddaughter. Well, wish me luck. Coffee is ready.

Oh, and to top it off, it snowed last night. I know that has nothing to do with motherhood, but nevertheless, it deserves a hearty WTF?

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I rarely put a lot of effort into how I look. This isn’t because I don’t have time due to being so selflessly devoted to my kids, rather, it’s because I don’t want it to look like I put in a lot of effort, and this is the end result. Instead, I look pretty crappy on a daily basis and am perpetuating all sorts of negative stereotypes of how moms look. This is not how I ever envisioned myself.

I look back at pictures from my 20’s. I remember being critical of myself at the time. My hair wasn’t right, I had an errant zit, I looked too fat, etc. I remember thinking particular photos were terribly unflattering. I look at those same photos now and think, “Damn, I was cute!” Back then I did put in the effort, and it showed. I had cute haircuts, cute clothes, fantastic shoes. What the hell was my problem with any of it? I looked great!

I still own all of those clothes and shoes, so I should still look cute, right? Problem is, my post-2-kids-size-9 feet do not go into my much-daintier-pre-kids-size-7.5 shoes. Without mentioning any more specific numbers, I can tell you that no part of my post-2-kids body goes into any garment of my pre-2-kids wardrobe. This, sadly, includes my engagement and wedding rings. All of this does not make me feel pretty. All of this does not make me feel like the kind of woman I once was, and expected I’d always be. I’ve noticed lately that I’m invisible to people who used to see me and I’m suddenly visible to a new kind of people.

The people I’m invisible to include all the students in my college town, all baristas, bartenders, and men in general. The people I’m visible to are other women who look like me, and people two generations older then me. I actually should qualify that: I’m visible to other moms mostly in the “I’m so sorry, I’ve been there” looks we give each other in stores and libraries. It’s like a secret handshake for a club you never wanted to belong to. And it’s really my kids who are visible to the old people, I’m just along for the commentary.

I attract old people like white on rice. I’d like to say it’s because my kids are irresistibly adorable, but I know that it’s just because they’re young. Old people like to look at them, tell me about how many kids they had, how many grandkids they have, and how in their day they didn’t have slings, Ergos, carseats, pacifiers, toys like that, or whatever vehicle my kid is traveling in or item they are holding. Old people want me to know that my kids are spoiled, and I have it easy. Apparently, their kids got dragged around by their ankles and played with rusty tin cans and were happy about it.

As I assess my day and choose between my clogs, flip flops or sneakers, I know that at some point I’m going to have to find a way to redefine my appearance outside of my momminess. But that’s not happening today. Instead, I’ll put on my purple t-shirt that L tells me I look like a princess in, (I’m not sure he knows what a princess is), a clean(ish) pair of jeans, and pull my hair into a ponytail. I’ll run alongside L’s bike; I’ll roll on the floor with S; I’ll avoid mirrors; I’ll smile at old people; and I’ll commiserate with you when your kid throws 3 jars of tomato sauce on the floor in the supermarket.

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I imagine life in other people’s homes as mostly pleasant. Sure there are normal toddler tantrums, there’s over-stimulation, hunger and over-tired outbursts, but I expect that most of the time, the people in the home are happy. This is not true in my home – we are not happy. We aren’t happy because we live with a crazy person.

From one moment to the next, over the smallest of infractions, L can go from the happiest child to a sulking, brooding, foot stomping, hitting, kicking, spitting, screaming, threat-slinging monster. (I thought that brooding was reserved for teenagers? Maybe I’m just getting it out of the way early? Wishful thinking, I’m sure.)

So far this morning L has told me that he loves me and thanked me for the new shirt I bought him yesterday. (Aw!) A short time later, he attacked me with his drumsticks, calling me “Bad Mommy” and telling me that he didn’t like me and didn’t have to listen. (#%$!) Soon after that he cuddled up to my leg to ask if he could help me.  (Aw!) A moment later he screamed at me not to look at him, demanding that he needs privacy. (@$%&*) WTF? How am I supposed to live with this kind of mood-shifter?

I’ve tried different tactics dealing with his bad behavior. I have given more time outs than you would believe. No effect. I have taken away offending toys (the ones he hits me with, throws, etc). No effect. (On one particularly bad day, I actually took away every single toy and book. I carried his whole toy box, very nearly killing myself, down to the basement telling him that I was going to give it all away to nice poor children. Once again, I’m waiting for my mom of the year award.) I have ignored him. This just leads to more and more outlandish behavior until it can no longer be ignored. What can I do? How can my sweet child say that he wants to throw me in the garbage? And where in the world did  he come up with “I’m going to shoot you with my gun!”? What kind of bad mother am I to have a child who says these things?

Just like in everything in life, different people excel at different things. I think I’m a good mom to a baby. I am not good at 3-year-old boy. I just don’t get him; I react too emotionally to his evil outbursts; I am almost never on the same page as him; I don’t like his games (mostly running and throwing himself at things and asking “isn’t that cool?”); I don’t like his interests (poop, worms, jumping off of dangerous things); I don’t have the same type of energy (constant). I’m hoping, that at some later age, we’ll sync up again. Until then, I’m considering renting him out. But, just like my damn cat who now pees on the carpet, who would want him? Do those safe haven places even take 3-year-olds?

And then, just when I’m ready to pack him in the car to drop him off at the local fire station, his natural instinct for self-preservation kicks in. He turns on the charm, dialing up to full blast, and says something like “Mommy, you’re my special girl.” And, like an idiot, I melt. All is forgiven. My sweet, snuggly, boy is back, his demons exorcised. For the moment.

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Roller Baby

My favorite age for a person is about 6 months. At this age, you have a smiley, giggly little baby with the simplest needs. Hungry? Easy! Tired? Easy! Bored? Easy! (Look, here are your own feet!) Unfortunately, S is now 7.5 months; sadly, the sun is already setting her time as my perfect love. This decline began recently when she started to roll. It took me by surprise. As the awesomely laid back baby she is, I used to place her on her playmat, surround her with a few toys, and go about my business. I could cook dinner, check my email, make a phone call, take a shower all without worrying about the baby. If she cried, it was because she fell over and I would just re-sit her and she’d be good to go. Then, one day, when I went in to re-sit her, she was gone. Gone?

A moment of confusion: Gone? But I hear her, so she hasn’t left the house. I did put her in here, right? What is happening here?

Oh! There she is – wedged between the wall and L’s rocking horse, about 8 feet from her playmat. Huh. Must be a fluke. She doesn’t know how to crawl. I re-sat her. A few minutes later she was gone again. This time, she was entirely hidden from view under the coffee table. Uh-oh. That’s when I saw this mobility in action. She has suddenly figured out how to string several rolls together, moving herself surprisingly swiftly across a room. Her weakness: she cannot aim.

I watched as she eyed L’s guitar. She’s always wanted to suck on play with this most beloved toy. I watched as she made the decision to launch herself from her seated position into rolling mode. Thank God for carpeting or she’d be concussed surely. She rolled mightily in an entirely tangential direction from her target. When she hit the tiles of the kitchen floor she stopped, looked around for the guitar, and cried when she saw that somehow it was now much further away. No worries, a simple pivot and back to rolling. Straight into the pantry. Pivot. Roll. Into the back corner of the pantry where she got stuck.

At this point I knew for sure that the good days were behind us. I had been spoiled with my astonishingly low maintenance baby. After L, and S’s colicky beginnings, I felt that I had earned this good-natured wonder. A day alone with S left me feeling like wonder-mom. She repaid even the slightest of attention with huge grins; a tickle, cuddle or game of peek-a-boo brought on a flurry of angelic giggles and happy shrieks. She rarely cried. But now she’s getting stuck everywhere causing constant frustration. She doesn’t even delight in my holding her anymore, instead complaining and attempting suicide dives out of my arms whenever my attention is diverted. Sigh.

I know what lies ahead this time. With L, all these developments were exciting to watch. I loved his new-found mobility, his curiosity and impatience at being held, and even when he walked independently at 10 months, I was happy. Foolish and happy. But now I know. Goodbye to things on my coffee table. Goodbye to knowing everything will be fine if I step out of the room for a second. Goodbye to precious and expensive things that I didn’t realize she could get her hands on. (She has already chewed up DVD case. Looks like a rottweiler got it. How two teeth can do this sort of damage I do not know.)

Can I really be crazy enough to be nostalgic already for a smaller baby when I have a 7.5 month old? What is wrong with me? I have a friend and neighbor who is currently expecting her 3rd, and some inexplicable, irrational and entirely unwelcome part of me is jealous. I’m jealous that she’s about to have that amazing falling in love period with a new baby. I’m like one of those serial daters. The ones who are addicted to falling in love and then move on as soon as the relationship is comfortable. Luckily, T has none of these feelings at all. The sooner our kids are talking and able to wipe themselves and get themselves breakfast the better. Hmmm, come to think of it, that does sound nice.

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