My Unposted, Unperfect Life

img_7184If you scan my recent Instagram posts, you’ll see my family went sledding a few weeks ago. Smiling, we posed around the six-foot snow man we constructed together, with his fuzzy ear muffs and wooden stick arms and funny face. There’s footage of my kids giggling as they slid down a snowy slope, and me cracking up as I tried and failed epically to hold my phone when sliding quickly down the trail myself.

You’ll see pictures of my daughter selling girl scout cookies at a booth sale one afternoon; and photos of her dressed adorably at her first dance recital; pics of my son scoring touchdowns at football and holding up sports trophies; of both kids proudly holding up “Leader of the Month” certificates and good report cards. There are images of family trips to waterparks, amusement parks, museums, playgrounds, the beach; and holiday snapshots of everyone gleefully ripping into Christmas presents, overflowing Halloween candy buckets and pretty Easter baskets.

You’ll see the occasional date night photo of the hubs and I smiling over drinks at a restaurant. You’ll see some “selfies,” taken from various flattering angles on particularly good hair or boob days. There’s birthday tributes to close family members and friends, once-in-a-blue-moon “girls night out” shots, parties and weddings and family gatherings. Essentially, it’s a smattering of memories all fitting snugly together like the puzzle pieces of my life.

Except, if I’m being honest, there are hundreds of puzzle pieces missing. I’m just as guilty as the next social media user of creating a false reality that my life is seemingly perfect. I very carefully select only the most picture perfect of moments to share. Even when I’m complaining or angry or upset about something, I spin it on my Facebook page into a joke, as if to say “my life is a hot mess but it’s a funny hot mess so I got this!” Admittedly, I’m filled with a sense of satisfaction as I watch my “likes” climb in the hours and days after a new post.

Like most of you, my life is absolutely nowhere near the level of perfection those “likes” would indicate. For every smiling family members’ face I post, there are ten, maybe twenty, real-life frowns. For every joke I type into my feed, there are hundreds of tears pooling on my keyboard. For every fun family outing I’ve splashed across my page, there are countless days of sitting at home listening to my kids whine of boredom whenever they get the chance to take their eyes off YouTube for five seconds.

Real life isn’t found scrolling mindlessly through an app on your phone. Real life is in the pictures we don’t post, the moments we don’t capture and share with the world. Sure, it can be beautiful at times, but often it’s just empty. Lonely. Painful. Boring. Frustrating. Overwhelming. Terrifying. Depressing. Unperfect in every way.

Looking at my carefully curated social media content, you might not guess I battle depression and anxiety every day of my life. Zoom in on those pictures of my family sledding this winter and you might notice my wedding ring missing from the photo. People are rarely quick to post that their marriage is falling apart. And what you don’t see from the other side of the camera, in the photo where my daughter beams while holding her “Girl Scout Cookies for Sale” sign, is a mom with crippling social anxiety who is self-consciously struggling just to make it through the event without drawing attention to herself or looking awkward or saying something stupid in front of the other moms.

I never post images of my son crying when he missed a ball and cost his team the game, or of my daughter berating herself for getting another bad grade on her math test. I don’t post angry footage of me losing my shit every morning when the kids are getting ready for school at a snail-like pace. And I certainly don’t screenshot those scary credit card statements after I’ve gone overboard around holiday time.

I’ll never post a selfie first thing in the morning or without sucking my stomach in until breathing is physically impossible. I admit I only post pretty pictures of myself when boosted with the false confidence of liquid courage. I always feel silly the next day — and even sillier knowing all those “likes” really do feel good after all.

I sometimes (always) look at others’ pictures and feel like I’m failing epically at life. I’m filled with envy as I thumb through their lavish vacation photos or bikini pics or perfect homes or exciting social lives. I chastise myself for not doing enough with my kids, for my incessant social awkwardness, for not working out enough, not cleaning the house enough, self-deprecation to the highest degree.

And then I remind myself, as crazy as it seems to me, someone else might be looking at my posts and thinking the exact same thing.

So maybe, for those folks, I’ll share some footage gulping down my 20mg of antidepressants in the morning. Maybe I’ll share my shameful recycling bin brimming with empty wine bottles I consumed entirely on my own. Or better yet, maybe I’ll take a selfie with my therapist after our next session. Frankly, my life is as much of a mess – maybe even moreso- than yours.

But this is life: real, unfiltered, unedited, unplanned life.

It’s what happens when the camera is down. When the apps are closed and the phone is out of reach. And no one’s life – NO ONE’S – is perfect. So you can choose to laugh about it, or cry about it, forget about it, or even share it with the world. Just don’t feel bad about it, because we are all going through it.

It’s like they always say: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So put down the phone and go live your own, unperfect, unposted life.

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When Your Kid is THAT Kid

img_1678I missed a thing at my daughter’s school the other day.

Doesn’t matter what kinda thing; it was a thing. The kinda thing that some parents make and some parents don’t. The kinda thing that leaves some kids teary eyed and sad, watching as classmates joyously reunite with the same parents who just dropped them off a few hours prior, wondering why their own mommy or daddy didn’t care enough to come. The kinda thing that some parents reluctantly use vacation days on, simply to avoid their kid being THAT kid– the sobbing one whose mom and dad didn’t show up because clearly they hate him and bask in his misery. The kid making everyone uncomfortable. The one breaking everyone’s heart.

I usually make all the things. I work from home so there’s no reason to miss them and make my kid be THAT kid. The worst part about missing this particular thing is WHY I missed it. Her classmates’ parents think I was too busy with work to make it. I could never fess up to the truth. Nope, no way I’m telling the folks — the ones who consoled my little girl as she sobbed — that I had simply forgotten about it.

That’s right. I forgot. I fucking forgot.

Somehow, in the midst of all the deadlines, conference calls, meetings, girl scouts, boy scouts, gymnastics, football, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties, holidays, homework assignments, tests, trip slips, bills, theme outfit days, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. etc. etc., something managed to slip my mind. Can’t imagine how on earth that happened.

I had written it on my calendar, the one hanging in my kitchen with a different family photo for every month that makes visitors think I’m an organizational supermom with her shit together.

Unfortunately, no one told me wall calendars are SO 2017, because I hadn’t also plugged it into my phone. Nor did I instruct Alexa to set dozens of piercing reminders to chime at 10-minute intervals until I got up off my lazy ass to get ready.

So at 1pm Friday afternoon, when I should have been herding into in a hot classroom with 20 or so other parents, feigning enthusiasm while silently counting down the minutes until we could be released back into the wild, I was instead staring wearily at a computer screen at home, contemplating quitting my job and moving to an uninhabited island for the tenth time that day.  Meanwhile my seven-year-old was at school just two blocks away crying big, fat tears into her pink and purple sequined tee-shirt.

I’m just so angry with myself. How could I miss it? I know these things happen; even the best parents forget stuff sometimes. Still, I keep seeing her sad little face in my head. I’ve been beating myself up since the minute I picked her up from school and she hurled a venomous “you weren’t there!” in my direction. Her words stung me the way my actions did her. The difference is she came home and busied herself setting up a tea party for her American Girl dolls, already unaffected by the day’s disappointment — my indiscretion forgotten more quickly than it occurred. Yet here I am, still chastising myself over the whole thing, two full days later. My guilt even lead to an epic Wendy’s trip that night, complete with cheeseburgers, vanilla Frosties and giant chocolate chip cookies (sanctimomies, save your fast food lecture. I already feel like mother of the year).

But how could I care so little that I’d actually forget to be there for my child?  Well, I’ll tell you a secret: I never wanted to go to begin with.  NO ONE really wants to be at these things! No sane parent ever wakes up like “YAY! I can’t wait to sweat my tits off in classroom today listening to my kid read a story about purple tigers,” as though she doesn’t spend hours describing, in detail, every thought that enters her head, every single moment of every single day. No normal person wants to clear an afternoon for that shit.

But you do it. You do it for your kid. You do it so she’s not THAT kid.

Wouldn’t it be great if they just stopped doing these things, like, altogether? I mean, some parents aren’t total dumbasses like me. They have legitimate reasons for not making every school gathering under the sun. They have work, young children to care for, other commitments to tend to. They want to save their sick days and vacation days for their intended purpose, not waste them merely to avoid wading in the same tepid pool of self loathing I’m currently drowning myself in. They want to keep their newborns out of germ-ridden classrooms.

And just for the record, I’m not blaming the teachers. It’s not up to them. In fact, they tend to empathize because their kid is usually THAT kid. They can’t miss a day of work at the drop of a hat. They’re just following directions from the higher-ups who require staff to encourage parent involvement. But can someone let their bosses that two hours of begging my kids to finish their goddamn homework every night is all the parent involvement I can bear?

It’s not the PTA either. A PTA superstar, I am certainly not and will never be. But someone has to do the bake sale stuff because it contributes to much-needed funding for school programs. Or so I hear.

So can’t we all, like collectively as a community of parents,  just agree once and for all that these things are hurting a lot of kids more than they are helping?

There is a solution. A real one. You might have seen it making rounds on social media. You probably tapped the “haha” button, or maybe even went for a “love” click before moving on to the next like-worthy post.

But I’m serious, people. Let’s do this. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it.

You just need to write a quick, hefty check on the first day of school, with a little reminder in the notes section that this generous amount should cover financial contributions AND attendance at all events occurring between the first and last day of school.  Holiday fairs, basket auctions, book fairs, bake sales, class parties, literally all of it.

Let’s keep our kids and everyone’s kids from the yucky feeling of being THAT kid. I will gladly fork over at least a buck for every would-be tear shed by my child if she were left parent-less at a school event.

Wouldn’t you?

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?

People Think I’m a Bitch

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They’re wrong. Well, for the most part. I’m actually a pretty nice person, once you get to know me. My problem is that I am separated from the outside world by a very thick cement wall of social anxiety, and it prevents me from functioning normally when interacting with people I don’t know very well.

Whereas most people can have a normal conversation with an acquaintance and then proceed to go about their day as planned, I will spend an additional half hour after our interaction has ended psychoanalyzing every word I said and wondering if I sounded as stupid aloud as I did in my own head. I’ll wonder if I spoke too loudly and called unwanted attention to myself; if others were gawking at the tiny rip in the sleeve of my jacket or the mud peeking out from the bottom of my shoes; if I was regarded as a shitty parent because my kids weren’t using their “inside voices” (while also publicly beating the crap out of each other).

In short, I will waste a lot of time psychotically obsessing over a whole world of shit that DOESN’T MATTER AT ALL. And it’s not even that I really care that much what other people think of me (hence this entire website devoted to my half-assed parenting and other personal problems). I just don’t enjoy the uncomfortable feeling of being scrutinized and consequently unaccepted. It kinda makes my stomach hurt.

So that’s why I tend to avoid 99% of unnecessary social interactions with people I don’t know.

Because I’m the idiot who is incapable of handling basic conversations with other adults without the help of alcohol or maybe narcotics. I’m the babbling moron who hasn’t mastered the art of small talk and probably never will. I’m the jerk who will pretend I don’t know you at all even though I have walked past you while picking my child up from school at least 100 times since he started elementary school three years ago. I’m the asshole who would rather stare at my foot, a tree, parked cars, my phone, anything in the vicinity without a pulse, just to avoid making eye contact with you, person who I kinda-sorta know but kinda-sorta don’t.

And speaking of picking my son up from school– there is no other activity within my daily life which I despise so vehemently.  Talk about social anxiety to the max. Everyone’s chatting, Lizzie lost another tooth, Joey got a soccer award, yada yada yada blah blah blah. I don’t totally mind discussing the difficulty of the recent second grade math test with these ladies, honestly, but I’m just not the type to walk right up to you and start the conversation. It feels weird. What if you don’t really want to talk to me? What if you just want to talk to this other girl who is suddenly approaching us and you don’t want the responsibility of introducing us? What if you don’t introduce us and I just stand there awkwardly while you start talking about someone I don’t even know, inching away ever-so-slowly, silently begging the powers-that-be to make my son’s class be dismissed first today. And then I will say another prayer that he doesn’t ask to stick around and play with his friends in the schoolyard for a little while, thus extending this unpleasant social situation by an extremely painful extra half hour.

This is where I could continue to list the myriad of stressful situations for a socially anxious parent like myself, running the gamut all the way from play dates to birthday parties. But I won’t. If your anxiety is anything like mine, you know how horrible they are. Let’s not even get into it.

If my behavior sounds silly to you, then you clearly aren’t plagued by social anxiety. You are the head of the PTA, the Class Mom, the good neighbor, a person with social circles galore. You and I will never be the same. Which is okay.

Just please understand that I’m not really that much of a bitch. If you approach me and mention that pain-in-the-ass math test, I’ll agree that it was difficult. I’ll talk about how much my son hates studying too, and commiserate with you over how many days are left until the summer vacation. I’ll be surprisingly friendly and kind, maybe even a little bit funny.

But just know that afterward, I will silently berate myself for every weird thing I’ll definitely think I might have said and then wonder if you think I’m the biggest idiot you have met in your life. And the next time we see each other, don’t expect more than a half smile or tiny wave as I rush wildly past you to go hide behind a tree.

I swear it isn’t you. It’s me.

A Letter to My Daughter on the Week of Her Fourth Birthday

lala bdayTo my sweet little girl,

It is with a bittersweet heart that I am writing this letter to you tonight. In just a few short days you will be four years old, and I have to admit it’s crushing me. For some parents, the fourth birthday is probably just another in a string of character-themed pizza parties laden with decorations and gifts and too much cake. But to me it’s so much more than that. (Well of course, it’s that too!)

This week, my sweet baby girl, marks the end of an era—one through which you toddled quite innocently, seemingly unaware you were clutching us all in the palm of your tiny little hand. It’s been that way since your very first breath and likely won’t change anytime soon. But you will change, baby girl. Now as you teeter on the brink of girlhood, it’s become painfully evident that your toddler years will soon be as distant a memory as your chubby cheeks and baby giggles.

Already your days are spent in school, learning the ABC’s and 123’s you’ll find familiar from the countless books we read together and the Mickey Mouse cartoons you watched every morning. Now in the morning, instead of our usual breakfast and cuddles, I leave you with someone else for a whole entire day to make friends I never met and eat snacks I didn’t fix and create projects I won’t see until the last day of school. My faithful and silly sidekick is no longer glued to my hip, tagging along on our daily errands or following behind as I clean the house and cook meals, asking hundreds of questions about every little thing (funny questions, ridiculous questions, and at times surprisingly profound questions).

While I know I still have a few years until the dolls and stuffed animals and tea parties are replaced by makeup and crushes and cell phones, I’m sure I’ll barely blink an eye before those years arrive. If there is anything being a parent has taught me, it’s how quickly our precious time flies by. You have to hang onto every moment.

I look back on these past four years and can’t help but wonder if I’ve done an adequate job preparing you for what lies ahead. They say the brain is still developing in these early stages, and I question whether I’ve helped the process along as much as I could have. I wonder if we read enough books, sang enough songs, played enough games.  If we danced around in our pajamas to pop songs on the radio enough. If we went out for ice cream enough. If I answered all your questions enough. Did I spend too much time working? Did you spend too much time watching the Disney Channel? What else am I doing wrong? How will I ever know? I don’t get a redo, there are no second chances here.

Sometimes I see the way you look at me, your eyes wide with the most unconditional love in the world, and it breaks my heart because I know that look won’t last forever. Someday you’ll learn that I’m nowhere near as perfect as you think. And someday you’ll learn that not every problem is quickly erased with a kiss and a hug from Mommy.

I have my own memories of being four years old, bits and pieces of moments forever etched in my mind, and I hope the ones you begin to collect will be better than mine. My happiest memories were often overshadowed by my anxiety, even at such a young age. I pray, oh how I pray, you aren’t plagued by those same anxieties that inexplicably tainted my childhood. I will do absolutely anything in my power to keep you from feeling that pain. Please don’t ever forget that. I am always here for you, my girl. Always.

You’re just four years old and already one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen. And not just outside but inside as well. That is such a cliché, I know. But with you it’s an undeniable truth. Yes, I am your mother so of course I am biased. But I see the way others react to you, my sweet girl. You’re positively mesmerizing. I hope you know what a wonderful person you are and will surely grow up to be. I hope you have the confidence I never had, and I hope you’ll use it to do great things. I look at you and your older brother, my world and absolute everything, and I know you’re both destined for unbelieveable things. All you have to do is stay on the right track and I’ll guide you there as best as I can. I may be getting ahead of myself, you’re both still so young. But this stuff is important and you need to know now.

Maybe you’ll understand someday when your own youngest child emerges from toddlerhood.

In a few days I will kiss you goodnight as you drift off to sleep as a three-year-old for the last time. I will hold back my tears and welcome the next phase of your life, our life, with open arms. You’ll blow out your candles and rip open your presents, and you’ll experience the unparalleled joy of a child on her birthday, and again I’ll hold back my tears because I will experience a joy similarly unparalleled. Seeing you happy, seeing you healthy, and watching you grow into this amazing little person, well, it’s a feeling like no other. I can’t thank you enough for giving me that joy.

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl. I love you to the end of the galaxy and back.

Love Always,
Mommy

The Lighthouse Award

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My girl Kerry over at Kerry’s Winding Road recently nominated me for The Lighthouse Award, which is given to those with blogs that inspire.  I’ve never really thought of my blog as very inspirational until Kerry nominated me for this award, but upon much thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that I inspire others to not be so hard on themselves as parents.  It’s my first blogging award, so I’m pretty psyched to be nominated and I really appreciate the nomination.

Kerry’s blog is both funny and inspirational.  In it, she describes her travels through “the beautiful and bumpy road of motherhood with two children”.  Beautiful and bumpy, indeed!  I highly recommend you go check it out.

So the rules of the Lighthouse Award are simple:

• Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
• Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
• Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
• Share three ways that you like to help others.
• Nominate as many bloggers as you like.
• Have fun!

So here’s how I like to help others (in true Highchairs & Headaches bare minimum fashion, of course :))

1. Despite numerous threats, I have yet to back over my husband’s PS3 with our car.  He counts as “other people”, right?

2. My children are singlehandedly keeping Nickelodeon in business.  You’re welcome, Nick!

3. I am not an asshole, as detailed in my blog post “I Love It When People Aren’t Assholes.”  By not being an asshole, I feel that I help influence others not to be assholes either. It’s my own personal effort to end the vicious cycle of assholes being assholes to other assholes.

Okay, so now I have the pleasure of nominating a few other blogs that I’m pretty big on right now.  It’s not going to be easy to narrow down, because there are SO MANY amazing blogs out there!  But here are my nominations:

Stay at Home Fodder

The Wine Wankers

The Pinterested Parent

My Foray Into Food Storage

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Nishita’s Rants and Raves

Game of Diapers

Go check out these awesome blogs if you, like me, are inspired by stuff like food, wine, Pinterest, parenting, and books 🙂

Thanks again for nominating me, Kerry!