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

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“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.

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.

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.

This is How I Know I’m Failing at Adulthood

Am I the only one who has that single spot in their home that is just a constant, infuriating reminder of how epically they are failing as an adult?

For me, it’s right here:
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When it’s clean (semi-annually), it’s supposed to be the counter where you’ll find kitchen utensil storage and perhaps a place to store a few pieces of new mail. There is a little stack of post-it notes and a pen or two nearby for scrawling messages, like people in tidy homes do for each other when one isn’t home. There’s a calendar hanging up, not at all buried under a plethora of reminder notices and kids homework assignments. It’s an orderly, functional area of the home. Or at least, it’s supposed to be.

The thing is, this kitchen counter is more than just a ridiculously cluttered spot in a home that is almost equally disorganized. It’s more than an inside-out junk drawer that seemingly threw up on itself.  It’s more than a mere representation of my extremely messy personality.

It’s like…… a symbol of adulthood as I’ve come to know it.

Look closely. There isn’t just random junk mail and school art projects strewn carelessly about (though you will find an abundance of those too).

There are actual important documents in that pile. Things that should be dealt with immediately or at least put away neatly. Things like unpaid bills. Important school notices. Insurance paperwork. My income taxes. My daughter’s first ever “report card” from preschool. Copies of the magazine I work for — my own words literally published in print for the first time in my life. Like, seriously important shit.

It’s as though everything that is vitally significant to my existence resides within a chaotic stack of crap on my kitchen counter, sandwiched between loose crayons and old Costco catalogues.

It’s not like I really have time to clean it. I sometimes distractedly stop what I’m doing and grab one or two things off the top to either toss in the recycling bin or file away somewhere safe. But then I take a second look and think “who the hell am I even kidding?” and give up to stick my head in the fridge to find something to snack on while flipping through the TV (which I also technically don’t have time for, but…..).

Basically the stack just grows higher and higher with each passing day, more and more art projects and potentially important documents piled on top on a regular basis.

Sometimes I walk past that counter and I’m just like, holy shit. If being an adult were a class in school I would be seriously flunking out. If growing up were a video game, I would lose one life every time I added another “Final Notice” to the never-ending stack ‘o’ crap. If the fate of the entire free world hinged on my ability to be an actual, mature, grown, human being, there would be a crisis of apocalyptic proportions.

I think that kitchen counter represents the apocalypse of my ability to have my shit together. My shit has never been so UN-together in my whole life. I thought it was bad when I was in college and only did laundry when my clean underwear ran out or when I was tired of dousing my waitress apron with coffee to cover the split-pea soup stains. But these days I only do laundry when the dirty clothes in the laundry basket are no longer stackable and begin heaving themselves onto the floor like a Jenga puzzle.

When you’re young, you have this built-in notion that someday you’ll enter adulthood and just automatically grow up. Like it happens overnight or something. Maybe the domestic goddess fairy will sprinkle some fairy dust on your pillow one night and you’ll wake up the next morning as June Cleaver or at least Monica Gellar.

How idiotic, right? No one ever seems to realize that keeping your shit together is hard enough when you only need to care for yourself, but it’s exponentially more difficult when you’re suddenly taking care of others as well. Why did no one ever tell me this? Guess it doesn’t matter now.

Here’s a funny thought: I just realized that the time I’ve devoted to writing about my messy kitchen counter could have been spent ACTUALLY CLEANING IT.

Ha! As if.

Why Having “Only” One Kid Is Harder Than It Seems

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Recently a very sweet reader commented to me that she only has one kid, but can still really enjoy all the stuff I write about on my blog. ONLY one kid, she said.

My kids are about three years apart, so I had “only” one kid for a while myself, and let me tell you, having one kid is not necessarily easier than having two. It’s probably not even much easier than having a whole litter of ‘em, actually.

Now that I have two kids, a nice chunk of my day is admittedly spent prying my children off of one another, mediating arguments prompted by such pressing matters as whether it’s time to watch Princess Sofia or Scooby Doo and who gets to eat the last package of fruit snacks. But I have to say, in between those annoying moments of fighting, my home is constantly filled with the joyful sounds of children playing together. Frequent fits of giggles and shrieks of laughter, freckled by mischievous moments of quiet scheming, then followed by even more explosive laughter– these are the sweet, sweet sounds of siblings getting along. And to me, they’re some of the most beautiful sounds you will ever hear.

I think that if you could bottle the blissful sound of children’s laughter, it might just cure every illness under the sun.

Just to clarify, I’m not implying that having one child will leave you with a dull, laughter-less home. Not at all. Every kid is hilarious in his or her own little way. But we do tip the laughter scale around here a lot more than we used to before my daughter came along.

Particularly for a new parent, caring for “only” one child can be one of the loneliest feelings in the world.  In fact, I was extremely depressed for most of the three years I spent as a mother of one child. The door would close in the morning as my husband headed off to work, and the seemingly endless hours of loneliness would begin. I’d look down at my little guy, and he’d look up at me, his eyes as big as his expectations for the day, and I knew that keeping him content for those long hours was all on me.

It’s a pretty big job, and not an easy one.

Fact: there is really only so much coloring, finger-painting, and shape-sorting you can do before you start to lose your ever-loving mind.

Some moms like to fill their toddler’s schedules with exciting play dates and Gymboree classes. And that’s great. But what about parents who, like I was, are new to their neighborhood and don’t have a ton of mommy friends with whom to set up playdates? And the Gymboree classes? Um, have you seen the pricetag on these freaking classes? I can roll a big ball around and sing The Wheels on the Bus to my kid at home for free, thankyouverymuch.

Another problem I had when my son was an only child was the sharing thing. At home, all of his precious toys were his and his alone. Without the frequent wails of “but it’s MY turn!” from a jealous sibling, sharing was a foreign concept to my little guy. So you can imagine that play dates were a BLAST back then. I’ve always found it an awkward situation when your kid has engaged in a knock-down, drag-out, tug-of-war match with another kid over some shitty toy, and the parents need to step in and encourage the angry toddlers to “take turns” with said shitty toy. Either no one listens and the match rages on until the toy is removed and both children are sulking, or the other kid hands it over and your kid ends up looking like the jerk. Nope, my kid was never the one to hand it over. Not back then, anyway.

So moms of “only” one child, do yourselves a favor and give a little (or a LOT) of credit where it’s due. Raising kids is tricky business, no matter how many you have.  Every type of parenting comes with its own set of challenges- one kid, two kids, ten kids, twins, triplets, whatever.  The bottom line is that you are raising a living, breathing, human being who is depending on YOU to keep him or her thriving and well, 24/7. It’s a big damn responsibility. And I think that, even for those parents raising a whole boatload of kids, we’re all just figuring out this parenting thing as we go.

Although for the record, I do NOT want a whole boatload of kids.

15 Things That Happen When Your Child is Obsessed With Dinosaurs

If you have a kid who’s really into dinosaurs, you know that just saying they “like” them is not merely enough. My son, for example, was completely and totally obsessed with dinosaurs for at least three years of his life. I think it started the very moment he laid his tiny toddler eyes on his very first T-Rex. It must have been love at first sight. And from then on, it was all he would ever talk about and think about. We had all the books, toys, stuffed animals, movies, TV shows, clothes, EVERYTHING. It was just dinosaurs, dinosaurs, dinosaurs for his entire toddlerhood and beyond.

Now that he’s a big boy of six whole years, he’s moved on quite a bit. Video game characters seem to be all the rage these days, but I know his prehistoric pals will always have a special place in his heart. And, holy crap,  I can’t even believe what I’m about to say, but I actually kind of miss those dinosaur days. He drove me a little insane sometimes with the whole obsession, but looking back, it was pretty damn adorable.

If your little T-Rex head is, or was, anything like mine used to be, then you’ll relate to most (if not all) of these things:

  1. You’ve learned that there is no such thing as a brontosaurus, and apparently there never was. Yup, your science teacher was dead wrong. Nowadays it’s all about the brachiosaurus.
  2. You notice that Dino Dan is clearly on some very powerful hallucinogens, but we’re supposed to just accept it and watch the show anyway, no questions asked
  3. Your visit to the Museum of Natural History starts on the fourth floor, where all the cool dinosaur bones are. Don’t kid yourselves into thinking you came to see anything else (except maybe the giant blue whale- he’s pretty damn cool).
  4. You are way better at correctly pronouncing loooooong dinosaur names than you ever thought, thanks to the little lesson in phonetics under each name. At this point, there is nothing you can’t properly sound out. Micropachycephalosaurus? Epidexipteryx? Xinjiangovenator? Bring it on.
  5. You can never have too many dinosaur encyclopedias. And no, there is no limit to how many pages you’ll be asked to read every night.
  6. Shopping for kids clothes in a store with not even a single dinosaur tee shirt in sight is a complete waste of time.
  7. You will happily pay an inexcusable amount of money for any article of clothing with a really cool-looking T-Rex on it.
  8. Three years old is not at all too young to watch Jurassic Park for the first time.
  9. Barney does NOT count as a dinosaur. Never has, never will. Thank you, lord.
  10. There is no storage bin spacious enough for your child’s vast toy dinosaur collection. And every time you attempt to close the lid, there’s at least one tail sticking out somewhere preventing you from doing so. Better luck next time.
  11. People like to say it’s just a “childhood phase”, which you find hilarious. What kind of “phase” lasts at least THREE YEARS?? We prefer the term “healthy obsession”.
  12. Your child learned the difference between a carnivore and an herbivore before he knew his ABC’s.
  13. You saved money on Halloween costumes, because he (or she!) just wants to be T-Rex every year.
  14. Playing “pretend” has taken on a whole new meaning in your house; there are days that your child won’t answer to anything but “T-Rex”, and you occasionally have to explain to random strangers why your child is roaring very loudly at them for no reason.
  15. You wonder if the dinosaur obsession might continue beyond childhood, and your little one will might even someday choose a career in paleontology. And then you can’t help but think of Ross from Friends.
roar

So. Much. Roaring.