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Posts Tagged ‘woman’

Yesterday someone said the word “stranger” to L. This is a new word for him so he asked what it meant. I figured it might be a good time to introduce the concept of stranger danger, although part of me was loath to do it; I hate to take away his innocence, his awesome and naive view of the world. But I did it.

“A stranger is any person who you don’t know.”

“What if I just ask him his name? Then we’re friends?”

OK, different tack.

“What do you do if we’re out somewhere, like a mall or a fair, and you get lost?”

“I look around and mommy is maybe behind me.”

“I’m not behind you; you can’t find me.”

“Maybe I find Daddy instead.”

OK, different tack.

“If you get lost, and you can’t find mommy and you can’t find daddy, you should try to find another mommy and tell her that you are lost. Pick a lady who is with her kids. She’ll be a nice mommy who can help you.”

“A lady who isn’t with her kids is a bad mommy.”

“Uh, no, sometimes ladies go out without their kids… nevermind that. Just look for another mommy like me.”

“Or a daddy”

“No, not a daddy. Just a mommy.”

“Why?”

Ugh. I hate this. We went on to have a ridiculous conversation covering different places he might get lost. “What if I get lost in a tree?” “You’re not going to get lost in a tree.” “But what if I do?? Or, what if I get lost in a waterfall, or hay?”

I explained that if he can’t find another mommy, that he should go into a store and talk to the person who works there for help. His follow-up questions were so off the wall and off topic, it’s clear he has no idea what I’m talking about. Am I wrong to introduce this to a 3-year-old? Did I go about it the wrong way?

The whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth and a pit in my stomach. How are we to manage letting our sweet (well, in this case anyway), innocent children out there into the world with all the creeps and sickos? Really, it’s too much to bear. How and when did you talk about this stuff with your kids?

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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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In the spring when L was 15 months old, we moved to a new town. Knowing nobody, I began my adventures in mommy-dating. I hated mommy-dating but it had to be done. Without a job to go to, I had no other way of meeting new people. If you’ve never had to mommy-date, consider yourself lucky.

Mommy-dating is just like real-dating, except the scene unfolds at the playground, (or supermarket, library, museum etc,)  instead of a bar. I paid a little more attention to my own appearance, and L’s, making sure we were both at least mostly clean. I’d scan the park for “attractive” moms. What makes a potential mom-friend attractive? Her kid needs to be approximately the same age as L. No matter how cool a mom of a 6 month old seems, there’s no way she’d want a playdate with my wild toddler. She needs to look kind of like me – I’m not going to be bffs with a fancy mom. So, with my sights set on new mom friends, I hit the “singles” scene.

Just like real-dating, I had to put myself out there: I made eye contact; I was approachable; I was friendly; I visited the same places again and again, so I could see the same moms again and again; I made idle conversation with everyone; I introduced myself; I asked for phone numbers. All of this sucked. All of this was entirely against my inherent unfriendly nature. And, worse, I had an unreliable wing-man. L could be entirely disarming, or he could throw sand in your kid’s eyes.

In many ways, I think real-dating is less awkward than mom-dating. With real-dating, the whole pick-up process is sort of expected and normal. Between moms at the playground, it’s odd. It’s weird to go from chatting idly about the kids in the sandbox to, “So, maybe I can get your number so we can do this again sometime…” It’s truly awful. I’d come home from the park depressed because there was a really cool mom and I just didn’t pluck up the courage to get her number, and she didn’t ask for mine. I’d go weeks hoping to run into her again.

My first summer here I met a lot of moms and was able to set up a second date with a number of them. The second date is where you see if there is any chemistry. I found that these other moms mostly fell in one of two camps: those who thought I was funny, and those who thought I was horrible. I had a lot of very uncomfortable second dates! I never really did the whole real-dating thing, so I was unsure how to navigate these second dates. At what point in a potential new relationship, do you show your real self? Not the charming one who picked-up this mom, but the real one who dreads going into public places with her then 17-month-old? The one whose first thought upon her son’s waking up is, “damn”? How do you release your real personality? All at once? Or slowly, over time?

I decided to ease it out. I’d start with something light and benign to gauge my audience. I’d do something like call my son a “maniac.” For most people, this would go by unnoticed. There were a few moms, however, who immediately sought to correct me and explain that my son was developmentally appropriate blah blah blah. These moms were entirely too precious for me, and some excuse would be made for the playdate to end.

Next, I’d try something a little more colorful. I’d tell the story about how my son swears fairly regularly. (History of Speech) This would either be met with laughter and an equally charming story (the desired response), or shock and “Oh no! What did you do??” The latter set were dismissed.

Through my process of picking-up, follow-up dating, and personality slow release, I have been able to build a new circle of friends. My mom friends. These are women whose children drive them crazy. These are women whose children have been known to bite, scream, disrupt etc. These are women who know L and can appreciate all of his charms despite all of his foibles. Without these women I’d still be in the lonely trenches as a “single mom.”

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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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