25 Alternative Facts of Parenthood

pinocchio1I’m no politician, but I know a fancy phrase for bullshit when I see one.  It doesn’t bode well when you’re the actual advisor to the President of the United States of America. But as a parent? Let’s just say there hasn’t been a better made-up word since “threenager.”

When you have kids, lying becomes second nature. No one is saying you’re proud of it, but it’s true. The older your kids get, the more quickly you can come up with the perfect line of bullshit to suit every situation. Few parents will make it through their kids’ childhood without crafting a few necessary “alternative facts” here and there. I like to think of it as a survival tactic. So to celebrate my new favorite expression, I thought I’d share some of my favorite alternative facts of parenthood.
“The elf is watching everything you do and Santa is leaving you nothing!”

“No I’m not on Facebook, I’m fact checking your homework assignment.”

“What’s wine? This is grape juice.”

“Daddy was just in the bed checking mommy’s legs for tick bites.”

“Caillou isn’t on today. Actually, they cancelled it. Forever. Ditto for Max and Ruby.”

“Only grownups are allowed in the restaurant on date night.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“If you call 911 when there is no emergency, the police will come and take you to jail.”

“I LOVED doing homework as a kid.”

“Wow! That is the prettiest stick figure I’ve ever seen!”

“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose — as long as you had fun!”

“Your face will freeze like that” (technically this is true because I’ll snap a pic and share it on Instagram, where it will remain frozen forever).

“Sure, I’d love for you to help me cook dinner.”

“No, I don’t mind waiting (an eternity) while you button your own coat.”

“My kid will NEVER get away with (insert literally any offense at all) when he/she is a teenager.”

“It gets easier after the terrible twos.”

(To your spouse after being home with the kids all day) “I’m just gonna take a fast shower, be out in a few minutes.”

“I’m ONLY going to Target for diapers.”

“My Costco bill will be under $300 today.”

“I don’t have a favorite kid.”

“You’re never watching YouTube again!”

“Sure, I want to see your Minecraft house.”

“I missed you guys so much while you were in school today!”

“Yes, you can cut your finger off with a butter knife.” (also technically true, right Uncle Mike?)

“You can only use your tablet for ONE hour today.”

What are some of your favorite alternative facts in parenting?

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You’re Stronger Than You Think

hands

“Mommy I’m scared. I can’t breathe.”

You never want to hear your child say that to you. And when my four-year-old daughter recently said it to me one night around 2am when her cough went from 0-60 out of nowhere, I didn’t waste a second getting her to the emergency room.

This isn’t going to be the kind of thing where I pat myself on the back for getting my kid the medical attention she needed one scary night just in the nick of time. It’s a fairly basic requirement to keep your kid alive and I did what any normal parent would do in the situation. In fact, I spent the following seven hours pacing nervously around her hospital room, mentally berating myself for all the things I may have done wrong that, in my frazzled state, I thought may have landed her in that room in the first place.

You see, I’m THAT mom. The one who thinks the worst, all the time. The one who worries, who panics, who overthinks and overreacts. I know, I know. We’re parents, we all do that. But when the shit hits the fan, I retreat back into my shell like a terrified turtle — frozen, shaking, crying, feeling sick to my stomach and envisioning every worst-case scenario on earth.

Maybe this is you too. Maybe you’re a worrier, a crier, a freaker-outer like me. Maybe not by nature, but when it comes to your kids at least. Maybe you also often wonder how quickly your legs would turn to jello and your lunch would come back up if your world were to suddenly fall apart at the seams. If so, maybe now I can offer you some hope.

I drove as fast as the gas pedal would allow, flying past red light after red light, one eye glued to the road and the other to my daughter strapped into her car seat behind me. Finally at the ER, we sat for a minute and waited for a nurse while my baby cried and clung to my shoulders, calling out for me in between her tiny gasps for air. I could feel my body trembling from the inside, felt the desperate sobs gathering at back of my throat and the tears welling forcefully under my eyelids. I felt myself breaking down.

This is the moment you are not prepared for as a parent, should you ever find yourself in this situation. This is something you will not learn to handle in a parenting class or a self-help book. This is that make-or-break moment when you are faced with a choice. You can choose to fall apart in this moment, let your anxiety win, let the terror wash over you and just lose your mind completely. 

Or this is the moment you quickly realize there is no choice to be made, and that there never really was. And I promise you, you won’t fall apart. No, instead you will be hypnotized by the adrenaline. Your mommy autopilot will kick in. You’ll push that terror so far back inside that you may never see it again. You’ll put on the bravest face you can muster for your child and you WILL power through it. You got this, mama. 

So in perhaps the strongest moment of my entire life, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and shook it all off. I held my little girl in my arms as tightly as I could and I swore to her that she was going to be absolutely, positively fine. Inwardly, I made the same promise to myself.

If you’re the type who is normally good under pressure, this probably isn’t as big of a deal to you as it seems to me. But in that moment, I will never forget the way I looked fear dead in the face and told it to fuck off. For just a little while, for my sweet, scared baby girl, I was her superhero. I didn’t recognize myself, overcome by this sudden strength I never knew I was capable of. I’m grateful for it, and I sleep a little better now knowing I had that cape all along, tucked away and waiting for the day I’d need to put it on. I really hope I never need it again, but if I do at least I know it’s there.

In case you’re wondering, my daughter is perfectly fine now. I may have kept her calm, but her amazing nurses and doctors kept her alive. I can’t thank them enough.

The Thing About Preschool Parent Teacher Conferences

preschool chairs

Photo credit: Kevin Nealon. Yes, my child’s preschool teachers are famous comedians.

 

Preschool parent teacher conferences. Sigh. What’s the point? You don’t want to be there. Your kid’s teacher doesn’t want to be there. But through some glitch in the guilt-inducing dynamic of modern parenthood, here you both are.

If you’re on the first kid, you might not mind it so much. You may even be excited about the meeting, visions of your toddler’s Picasso-esque artwork and miniature Mozart music abilities dancing in your head. “She’s the sweetest, most intelligent, mature, loving, and generous  four-year old I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing” the teacher will gush. You’ll swoon with delight as the compliments continue until your head is so big it fills the entire classroom and you both float into outer space.

Uh, yeahhhh….good luck with all that. Here’s how it really goes down.

You plop down in a chair seemingly designed for members of the Lollipop Guild. Your child’s teacher sits directly across from you in a seat equally as ridiculous. You scan the room for signs of tornadoes and flying monkeys.

Off to gleaming start.

The teacher pulls out your child’s latest artwork, a moving depiction of the friendship between an 18-legged purple giraffe and her pet cloud. She tells you that the detail on the drawing is impressive and you bob your head in agreement, wondering wtf they spike the juice boxes with around here and how you can get your hands on one.

Next she hands you a page that appears to be your child’s attempt at writing her own name. The first letter is clear as day, and you temporarily swell with pride. Her fierce little “S” has more curves than Beyonce! And then you peer at the following 13 or so letters that may or may not be written entirely in Greek. Or Klingon. Who could tell? You warily glance up at the wall where little Liam scrawled his own name on a drawing like some preschool handwriting prodigy. Pshaw, whatever. Anyone could write a measly four little letters. Moving on.

The teacher explains that your child is doing well in most areas but needs improvement on holding pencils the right way. Apparently she uses the same technique for drafting her masterpieces as she does for stabbing her toaster waffles in the morning. Hopefully she enjoys writing as much as she enjoys drowning food in maple syrup.

Next the teacher asks if you have any questions and that’s when you really start to squirm. What do the other parents usually ask? How can she enhance her cognitive development? What activities will improve her gross motor skills? Are her social interactions on par with what is expected for her age group?

The thing is, all you really want to know is whether she wipes her boogers on the classroom furniture as frequently as she does at home. And where the hell does that little witch Jenna live? You’ve got a bone to pick with her about drawing on other kids’ Peppa Pig blankets.

So you reluctantly tell the teacher that, no, you have no questions. You then stare awkwardly at each other for a moment, not sure if the meeting is over or whether she’s waiting to divulge some hidden gem about your kid’s sick cymbal skills during music time or her unfailing ability to nap far longer than any of the other kids in the class. After a moment you concede that your child is just about as normal as any other four-year-old. You need to hightail it home to catch a new Grey’s Anatomy anyway.

Quietly praying that the shrunken chair doesn’t tag along for the ride when you finally yank your ass up out of it,  you thank the teacher politely and say goodbye. You then walk back to your car wondering if other parents feel as underwhelmed by these things as you do, or if you are really just an asshole.

Why I’m Terrified of the Next Stage

At least once a day I find myself thinking: “Nope! I didn’t sign up for this. Parenthood, screw you.”

Because this stuff is not easy. Like, realllllly not easy. Like set the difficulty level on maximum, tie a blindfold around your head, and then try to beat the game kind of not easy.

And it’s somehow just getting worse every day.

But how is that even possible? I’ve spent 20 whole months of my life walking around with another human inside my body. I literally had a watermelon-sized PERSON squirming away in my uterus, smashed up against my internal organs, stealing my vital nutrients and playing trampoline with my bladder. And that was the EASY PART!

After that came the sleepless nights and unforgettable days of being nothing more than a caffeine-fueled zombie with leaking tits. I’ll never forget the miserable nights when my colicky baby would scream at maximum lung capacity for four hours at a time and it was all I could do not to rip my own ears off and feed them to the dog. And the new parent anxiety? The trepidation associated with realizing there is a tiny little person whose life lies entirely in your hands and there is no reset button to press when you screw up? The fear of this realization is paralyzing, especially to those of us riddled with anxiety to begin with.

And what’s next? The toddler shit show. You know, when your sweet little chubby-cheeked angel somehow evolves into this shit-talking baby/person hybrid that still does all the annoying baby stuff but now thinks it’s a tiny grown up and yells at you every fifteen seconds. If you’re not yet in this phase, someday you will find your two young children huddled in a corner holding “safety” scissors and hacking away at each other’s hair, and you’ll fight back tears of frustration as you think to yourself “I can’t wait until this toddler shit is over, it can’t be worse than this.”

Oh, but I think it can. And it will.

Brace yourselves. Toddlerhood is coming.

Brace yourselves. Toddlerhood is coming.

When my kids were really young and they were glued to my hip 24/7, sympathetic people would occasionally say “don’t worry, it gets better when they get a little bigger and you don’t need to be on top of them all the time.” Although they were probably just saying that to steer the conversation away from the latest object my kid stuck up her nose, they were partially right. There is a certain undeniable freedom that goes along with being able to turn your back for ten seconds without the fear of finding a child swinging from a cabinet or eating raw chicken out of the garbage can.

But once you emerge from the sleep-deprived hell-on-earth of raising toddlers, you’re far from in the clear. When people used to tell me “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems,” I wanted to punch them in the throat. I admit it wasn’t just their condescending attitude that pissed me off—it was the underlying fear that I would someday learn they were actually telling the truth. And now as I watch my own children each graduate from toddlerhood, I realize they are about to enter a world where they’re old enough to start remembering stuff. There’s no longer a margin for error. One bad screw-up and they’re like scarred for life, you guys. How is that for pressure?

Once toddlerhood is over, it dawns on you that that all you really needed to fix little kid problems was a big stack of baby wipes and a little patience. Or preferably, a good set of ear plugs. But these big kid problems are a doozy. Your kid starts coming home from school with questions that you’d rather fake your own death than answer. Let’s just say they don’t bat their innocent lashes at you and inquire where babies come from anymore. Oh, and the homework assignments? I can answer Final Jeopardy correctly at least once a week, yet I have to Google my son’s second grade homework problems for answers. WTF?

I’m not sure how much worse it gets from here, but I’ve read enough horror stories about texting and driving to know that the crap I’m dealing with now is fucking peanuts compared to what’s coming next. And I’m not ready for any of it.

I Wish My Kids Would Stop Trying to Kill Each Other

kids fightingI am willing to pay someone to get my kids to stop fighting. Cash, outright. I’ll even throw in some old jewelry and a special shout-out on my blog. Please someone, anyone, just hypnotize these little monsters into thinking they actually like each other. Any takers?

These. Kids. Never. Stop. Fighting. And I’m losing my damn mind.

Sometimes they get along. Sometimes they laugh and giggle together and chase each other happily outside, and it’s music to my ears. Like the sound of actual angels singing into a set of Bose speakers on full volume in my living room. There’s never a happier moment than when the monsters are frolicking together through the house like little bundles of smiles and joy and awesomeness and wonder.

But that’s so rare I could cry.

Most of the time they are at each other’s throats, one crying, the other screaming, some piece-of-shit toy at the forefront of the madness, ready to be forgotten five seconds after finding its way into the victor’s grasp. Because they don’t sincerely give a crap about the toy they are fighting over. Or the TV show. Or the bag of chips. Or who got to go in the car first. Or whatever is causing all hell to break loose. It’s all just a battle of wills, a reason to claim the victory over a sibling. Or maybe it’s all just a ploy to entirely strip mommy of her sanity and thus gain unlimited access to the snack cabinet.

I can’t deal with it anymore. I can’t even take a five-minute shower anymore without the shrieking sounds of “GET OFF OF IT!” and “NO I HAD IT FIRST!” piercing the bathroom door. My showers, my five minutes of peace and quiet, are no longer the sanctuary they once were.

Mealtime is a nightmare too. Why doesn’t she have to finish her broccoli? Why can’t I have the blue cup? She’s sitting to too close to me. He keeps kicking my chair…AHHHHH!!!! Mommy’s about to go eat dinner on the bathroom floor with the door locked.

Sometimes I pretend I don’t hear it. I simply say to myself “it’ll stop eventually” or “they’ll work it out themselves.” But who am I kidding? What I’m really thinking is “let those little assholes kill each other.” I then attempt to appear oblivious to the increasingly loud screaming and potential violence erupting in the next room. I quietly pray they will just leave me out of it, begging some nonexistent peacemaker to sprinkle some happy dust over the entire house. But any fool can tell I’m only delaying the inevitable. It’s usually mere seconds before I find myself tangled up in their angry clash, screaming loudest of all, tossing kids in timeout chairs and taking away tablets and TV privileges.

You would think the threat of losing their precious YouTube would be enough to keep them at peace with each other at least once in a while…

Maybe I deserve this. My brother and I did some pretty intense fighting when we were kids. One time I turned on the blow dryer and put it down his shirt and held it there until he was screaming in pain. I know, I know, that’s bad. But he knocked out my front tooth with an actual hockey puck once. So I’d say our psychotic sibling rivalry was warranted on both ends. (Side note: Mom, Dad, sorry…?)

And now the powers that be have decided I should have a little taste of my own medicine, I suppose. They’re shoving a metaphorical blow dryer down my shirt, turning it on the highest setting, and burning away my sanity. One petty little argument at a time.

Eight Truths About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Doctors and parenting magazines alike will have you believe breastfeeding is a one way ticket to eternal health for your children. And maybe it is, I’m not a doctor. But like anything in parenting, it’s not exactly heaven on earth.

I breastfed my son for six weeks and my daughter for 13 months (exclusively), so I feel I have some input on the subject and I’d like to share my thoughts. I promise not to sound like some pro-breastfeeding advertisement, like so many articles I’ve read touting the whole “breast is best” thing. There are pros and there are cons, like everything in the world. Take it or leave it.

1. Yes, it does hurt at first. The Breastfeeding Police don’t want you to know that– they want you to think your kid isn’t latching on correctly or that you’re doing something else wrong to cause the pain. But that’s bullcrap. Your milk ducts get clogged and swollen, your boobs fill up with more milk than Sunnydale Farms, and your nipples get so chapped from the constant moisture that you could slather on 80 pounds of nipple cream and still it won’t help. What will help? A little time. You just have to wait that part out. Eventually you find your groove and it’s all gravy from there. Well at least until they start teething (yes, seriously).

2. It really does promote bonding. Like serious amounts of bonding. I guess they sort of look at you like you’re a giant walking ice cream sundae. They can’t get enough. My daughter, now three years old, still looks at me like I’m dessert. And she hasn’t nursed in two years. She is decidedly more attached to me than she is to my husband — like really, really, really attached to me — and it’s been that way since day one. I am no scientist, so I can’t say with certainty that it’s a direct result of the breastfeeding. But it sure as heck feels that way. Like in my heart and stuff.

3. Sometimes, you just can’t do it. And that’s totally okay. I breastfed my son for only six weeks, and I will tell you why. He was HUNGRY. So, so, so damn hungry. Your body is supposed to like miraculously make just as much milk as your baby needs. But my son wanted to eat every freaking half hour. It was insane how hungry he was. When I finally gave in and gave him a bottle, he gobbled it up like I’d been starving him for weeks. And maybe I had been. They say it’s “rare” that a woman is unable to provide enough milk for her child, but I think that’s phooey. Here’s why: stress causes a decline in your milk production. Stress! What new mom isn’t stressed out? So I say go with your gut. And don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

4. It’s okay to go public. I didn’t, and it’s a big regret. My daughter used to pull my nursing cover down when I was nursing her (yea, that’s another thing that happens when their motor skills kick in). At the time, the mere thought of anyone catching a glimpse of a little exposed nipple by accident was terrifying to me. I used to think moms who would breastfeed openly were totally nuts. But I was wrong. You know what’s nuts? Cowering in a dirty public bathroom stall to feed your hungry kid. Which is something I’ve done countless times, despite how gross it is. Now I think that’s nuts, and it’s no way to live. I’m not saying you should walk around the mall topless or anything, but feel free to do what’s comfortable and don’t worry what others might think. Just let them stare; it’ll probably be the highlight of their worthless day.

5. Sex? No thanks! I’m pretty sure this is a biological thing, but your sex drive is severely diminished when you’re nursing. Tell hubby to purchase some good hand lotion, because that’s all he’s getting for a while. If he complains, tell him to quit his bitching. When you stop nursing it comes back times a thousand. You’ll be on baby #2 before you know it.

6. You’re hungry. All. The. Time. It’s like your pregnancy never ended. Actually, it’s worse. Because when you were “eating for two” before, one of you weighed less than a cantaloupe. But the good news is that you’re somehow magically burning calories while you breastfeed, so you can skip the gym and have another burrito.

7. The breast pump is the creepiest-looking contraption ever invented. You’re literally being milked, Bessie. It looks weird, it feels weird, and it’s a tremendous pain in the ass. The only thing worse than all that pumping is the prospect of it going to waste. Whoever coined the phrase “stop crying over spilled milk” never spilled eight ounces of that freshly-pumped liquid gold. Hell hath no fury like a nursing mom whose milk has gone to waste. Dads, take note and be VERY CAREFUL when handling those precious bottles. Your life may be on the line.

8. The Breastfeeding Police won’t like this, but I’m telling it like it is: I see virtually no difference in the health of my exclusively breastfed child and my non-breastfed child. If anything, it kind of feels like the one who breastfed gets sick even more than the other one. It’s just an observation I’ve made, one that shouldn’t sway anyone’s decision to nurse in either direction. I just kind of hoped I’d find myself in that germy pediatrician’s office a lot less with the breastfed child, and it hasn’t worked out that way. Maybe my supposedly magical breast milk is just no match for those slimy monkey bars at the park or the snot-covered play doh at preschool.

breastfeeding

Peeing & Parenting

pottyThere are two types of things no one warns you about before you become a parent:

~ stuff that can’t be described because you need to just experience it for yourself
~ stuff that’s just too gross to discuss with others.

Today’s topic falls into the latter category. I’m talking about pee, and the long, complicated relationship parents inevitably develop with it over the course of raising their children.

Because…there’s just….so much of it.

I’m not sure if maybe it’s just my kids or what, but for me parenthood has basically turned into one long golden shower since literally the week my first child was born.

He peed in his own eye, in case you’re wondering. A steady stream of newborn urine from his tiny, newborn weenie directly into his tiny, newborn eye.

This post comes on the heels of a rather harrowing experience, in which I had to beg a Duane Reade employee to let my son (who was peepee dancing up and down the feminine hygiene aisle) to use their locked employee bathroom—only for him to end up making it all the way to the foot of the bowl before simply giving up. Right down the front of his light-colored jeans. Here’s how that went down:

Me: Just hold it in for one more second
Him: I can’t! I’m peeing already! Mommy! Pull down my pants, I can’t open my jeans!
Me: No! Don’t pee! Hold it a half second more! (fumbling with his fly zipper)
Him: But it’s too late, mommy!
Me: (Finally getting the pants down, which is when all hell broke loose) Aim at the toilet! THE TOILET!! YOU’RE PEEING ON ME! STOP PEEING AND AIM FOR THE DAMN BOWL! (To my daughter) STAND BACK, YOU’RE GONNA GET PEED ON!

By the time he was done, there was pee on all of the following:

~ the wall
~ the floor
~ the sink
~ his pants
~ my shirt
~ my pants
~ my daughter’s shoes
~ everywhere but inside the toilet bowl

Not a full hour prior to this incident, by the way, I was squatting on the bathroom floor of the pediatrician’s office, holding a urine sample cup under my three-year-old daughter’s hoo-ha, our eyes interlocked, as we both waited desperately for at least one or two drops to hit the bottom of the plastic cup. It never did.

And for the hat trick that day: fast forward several hours and she ends up peeing on me in her sleep while I was changing her overnight diaper. Not wanting to disturb her sleep, I changed her clothes, slid four towels under her and figured she would be fine for the remainder of the night. Woke up later to find her using the towels as blankets.

In the early years of raising children, it seems that every single outing involves a potty incident of some sort. Loaded diapers leaking onto clothes; frenzied trips to find public bathrooms; wet mattresses, car seats, play pens, couches, rugs, etc.; and, of course, the sheer torture associated with everything potty training: it’s all just a typical day in the life of pee-covered parents of young kids.

Fun fact: once, in the early stages of my daughter’s potty training, I found her on the floor of the bathroom after she had clearly missed making it to the bowl, and she was finger painting in her own urine.

Being a parent to one toddler and one longtime bed-wetter, I have washed countless urine-covered kids’ bedsheets by now.  I’ve witnessed the faces of all four Ninja Turtles covered in pee, I’ve seen a urine-soaked Mario and Luigi, a yellow-tinted Elsa, Anna, and Olaf, and, of course, all the weirdos in Gabba Land have swam in the piss of my children. If you have ever been to my house, there’s a pretty good chance you sat in a spot that’s been peed on at some point. Sorry.

Quite frankly, I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t think I can wash another set of sheets that will inevitably be soaked less than 48 hours later. There’s only so much of that disgusting smell one human being can take. Is this even really normal? Why wasn’t I warned about the pee? WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THE PEE????????

My son is almost seven and my daughter will be four at the end of this year; so I’m realllllllly hoping to finally see the end of the peepee era for my family soon. As always, I’ll be sure to let you know (in graphic detail) how that goes.