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?

It’s About Time

time

I just came across this on a lovely friend’s Facebook page and man, it hit me right in the feels.

Go ahead, read it. Then read it again, take it in.

Ugh, right?

Time. The only truly constant aspect of all of our lives. It’s the one thing we all share. No matter who we are or what we are doing, time is always, always passing us by.

Some of us are wishing for more time.

Hell, I want at least six or seven more hours in the day. I want to stop running late for every appointment, party, play date, and errand on my calendar. I want to tack on an extra hour between my first alarm and second snooze in the morning. I want to add an extra hour before it’s time to get the kids from school. Girls’ night out needs to be at least two hours longer to make up for how rarely I actually attend one.

Some of us want to freeze time.

I’m watching my kids grow so quickly it breaks my heart. My oldest turns nine this year. NINE. Almost into the double digits. He’s getting smarter and more mature every day, and I swear he grows at least six inches in his sleep every night. But he still gives me a huge hug every day when I pick him up from school, despite his friends being fully able to see, and it’s a reminder that he’ll be my baby boy forever (even when he towers over mommy like most boys eventually do).

My youngest said goodbye to toddlerhood a few years ago, along with her chubby cheeks and baby curls. But when she laughs really hard, the giggles still come straight from her belly like they did when she could barely talk, and the sound makes me weak with love for her.

I know her belly laughs are as numbered as his afterschool hugs; I just don’t know how many I have left. I never know when the last one is coming, so I cherish each one as though there will be no more.  In my own, way I freeze time.

Some of us are wishing time away.

I remember waiting impatiently for my husband to come home from Iraq and meet our newborn son, and I admit I wished away the first three months of his tiny life. Who could blame me?

I wished away two pregnancies like any normal bloated, exhausted, aching woman carrying the equivalent of a small watermelon in her uterus would. But that was still 18 months of my life I watched swirl down the one-way drain of time.

When I was a stay-at-home-mom, I spent half the day staring at the clock, wishing away hour after hour until my husband came home to save me from the endless pit of loneliness and boredom. I measured time in TV shows: 8am Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, 11am Dino Dan, 1pm Day of Our Lives. By the time Dr. Phil came on I knew I was almost there. Tick tock, tick tock.

Time connects us all. It’s as though the earth is nothing more than a giant hourglass and we’re all just one single grain of sand making our way from the top to the bottom, birth to death. You can love or hate the people around you, but they’re merely sand like you, passing time all the same.

Some of us are running out of time. My parents are always telling me they are “in the September of their lives.” It sounds so depressing, right? But I get it. We are all getting older, we know our time is limited. We’re all just one cancer diagnosis or terrifying car crash or sudden heart attack away from the bottom of the hourglass.

Some of us are even wasting time, which is perhaps the biggest tragedy of all. In the wrong profession. The wrong location. The wrong marriage. The wrong state of mind. We waste time for a thousand different reasons, but none of them are really justified.

Because if there’s one thing being a slave to time has made me realize, it’s that time doesn’t really matter at all—hell, it doesn’t even exist. Whether you’re running out of time, hoping for more time, freezing time, wasting time, wishing time away – it doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you do with the time you have. The places you go, the people you meet, the friends you make, the love you share, the family you have.

It’s not about the time you have. It’s about the times you make.

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.

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

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.

An Open Letter to Netflix

netflixMy Dearest Netflix,

First I want to say thank you for seeing me through the many highly productive, wine-fueled television marathons I’ve come to cherish over the past few years. Thanks for catching me up on The Walking Dead when the rest of the world wouldn’t shut up about it. Thanks for introducing me to underappreciated gems like The United States of Tara and Raising Hope. Thanks for being my patch when I was weaning off The Office but couldn’t get Jim and Pam off the brain. Thanks for the parental control options that give me a reason to feel slightly less crappy about the kids binge-watching on their tablets while I get work done. Thanks for filling many a late-night hour with old rom-coms I’d almost forgotten and new ones I won’t publicly admit I’ve watched.

Basically, Netflix, you’re awesome.

You were awesome long before August 4, 2015. But a few days ago, when you announced that you’d be allowing your employees up to a year of unlimited maternity and paternity leave, you brought “awesome” to an unsurpassable level of fucking fantastic-ness.

A year of maternity and paternity leave. A year! Unheard of.

For me, this is a majorly sensitive subject. When I got pregnant with my son unexpectedly at the tender age of 25, just months after getting my first huge promotion, I promptly learned I was ineligible for paid maternity leave from the MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR CORPORATION where I worked simply because I hadn’t signed up for short-term disability (because a baby is totally a disability, right?). My story gets uglier, but I won’t get into it. Let’s just say I don’t work there anymore.

My story aside, I’m writing today to simply say a heartfelt thank you, Netflix. And I think I speak for moms and dads everywhere in my praise….

Thank you from the mom who is forced to leave her child in the care of another, merely weeks after giving birth, because she can’t afford not to work.

Thank you from the moms who can’t afford to go back to work at all because child care is so damn expensive.

Thank you from the exhausted parent who often stumbles blearily into work on two hours of sleep after being up all night with a crying infant.

Thank you from the parent who is tired of missing milestone after milestone.

Thank you from the parent who wears guilt everyday like a pair of tired mom jeans.

Thank you from the parent who spends too many extra hours just commuting to work, wasting away precious time that should be spent with family.

Thank you from the parents who have opposite schedules, causing stress on their marriage because they never see each other.

Thank you from the mom who contemplates quitting every morning as she leaves for work.

Thank you from the parent who fights the urge to wake her sleeping children when she comes home at night, just to spend some time together.

Thank you from the mom who wonders how the bills will get paid if she is fired for taking yet another day off to care for her child.

You see, Netflix, although you can’t employ every parent in the nation, we thank you for leading by example. We thank you for setting a precedent, one that should have been in place for decades. We thank you for doing the one thing that other countries around the world already see as a no-brainer.

We thank you for proving what most other companies don’t have the balls, the decency, and the common sense to admit: there is NOTHING more important than family.

Signed,
One Grateful Mama