Smelling Those Roses

This time of year is odd. On the one hand, it’s summer. The kids are home and free, and the weather is nice (albeit hot here) and there’s lots of fun stuff going on.

On the other hand, school is right around the corner. It starts August 4th here. And once school starts, another year of my kiddo’s lives zips right past us. All the pick ups and drop offs and homework and field trips, and then the holidays and there’s no stopping the freight train that is time when school is in session.

I try to slow down and enjoy the days that we have. But the boys are fighting incessantly, and it’s to hot to go and do many of the things we want to. I’m simultaneously willing the school year to start, and not wanting it to at all.

The Timehop app on my phone shows me pictures from long ago, when Bowie was just a baby and a toddler. And I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, and how big my kiddos are now. Even in pictures from only one year ago, they seem so small in comparison.

People often talk about what the hardest parts of parenting are. Having a newborn. Successfully breastfeeding. Getting kids to sleep through the night. Getting them to even just lay down at bedtime. Making sure they eat healthy. Keeping siblings out of each other’s hair. But I think when we really boil it down, it’s how quickly they grow up. It happens in the blink of an eye.

Every day they rely on us less and less. And eventually, they will rely on us very little, if at all. This is the way of things, of course. We did the same thing to our own parents, and they to their parents, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

So, here’s to slowing down. Enjoying every moment. Playing Legos with them, letting them splash in the bathtub a little longer. Because these moments are fleeting. Gone in a flash. And even a good old fashioned sibling WWE match can be funny and memorable if you’ve got the right mindset.

You’ve Got This

We all want to be a perfect parent. Some of us even already think we are. We do what we self-righteously believe is the right thing to do, in any given situation, and sit smugly at the end of the day, basking in our brilliance.

Or do we?

I think the more likely scenario is that we’re thrown situation after situation that we’ve never had to deal with, nor have we ever thought we’d have to deal with, day in and day out. And we sit in a panic at the end of the day, wondering if we handled all of those situations perfectly. The way a perfect parent would.

The inherent problem in trying to be a perfect parent is that there are so many different choices you can make and still be a “perfect” parent. Breastfeeding? That’s perfect. Bottle feeding? That’s perfect. Co-sleeping? That’s perfect. Crying it out? That’s perfect. Homemade baby food? That’s perfect. Store bought baby food? That’s perfect. See what I’m getting at here?

We make choices for our children that we feel are the right choice at that time and for that child. And so long as we have our child’s best interest in mind, and are not causing our child harm, that makes us a “perfect” parent.

Another problem with this perfect parent business is that we aren’t consistent. Those of us with more than one child know that you aren’t the same parent with your second child as you were with your first, and so on and so on for subsequent children.

For instance, I breastfed Bowie until he was 13 months old. I made about 90% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 7 months. I started potty training at 18 months.

I breastfed Ferris until he was 8 months old, at which time he self-weaned, and I formula fed until he was 1 year old. I made about 20% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 4 months. I started potty training at 2 1/2 years old.

Each child is their own little puzzle. They’ll be ready for different things at different times. You’ll have more time and more attention to devote to some things than other things, especially when baby #2 comes along. And each child has their own personality. Bowie has SPD and requires a little more attention and patience sometimes. Ferris is more daring than Bowie, and was doing things at 18 months that his 5 year old brother was still too scared to try. You have to treat them as individuals, and hard and fast parenting rules don’t work.

Most of the judgment of other parents, I feel, comes from the newbie crowd and the childless crowd. Someone who has no children of their own, yet has a pretty good idea of how things are supposed to work. Or, a mom with her first infant, with a whole long list of things she deems right and wrong for parenthood, without the actual experience to back up her claims. Parenting is one of those things you are not prepared for until you are in the thick of it. In the trenches, wiping poop off of your own face, trying to calm a screaming baby in a crowded public place, balancing a baby on your hip as you wipe a toddler’s butt, having all your lovingly homemade baby food spat back at you, running after your toddler at the zoo, the park, the museum, helping your Kindergartener with homework, being begged for the 100th time for a cookie you’ve said no to 99 times.

It is in these moments that you make certain decisions. Decisions you didn’t previously think you’d make. Jarred baby food, formula, delayed potty training, kid leashes, fast food, bribery, all those things you swore off, they suddenly become very attractive offers. And you decide that in life, there is give and take, weak and strong moments, and you know everything’s best in moderation. So you do what you have to do to survive, to stay sane. And that makes you a perfect parent.

A Letter to my Sons as I Move them 800 Miles From Home

Dear boys,

I moved around a lot when I was a kid. I moved every single year in grade school. New school, new neighborhood, new friends, new everything. Every time we moved we had to start all over again. Sometimes I had to give away pets, which was so sad.

I also moved a bunch of times in middle school and high school. We just changed houses in the same city, but it came with a lot of the disruption of a long-distance move. And I switched houses every year in college.

I always told myself I would find a place I loved living and never leave. And I found San Francisco. And it has been the most amazing 10 years of my life. This city is amazing, and I felt so fortunate to be able to be raising my family here. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one city, and I consider it to by my home.

The one caveat to living in such a great city is that it costs so much. We are throwing so much money at food and rent alone, it’s a miracle we have anything leftover for other stuff. And we looked into buying a house here. Hahahahahaha. Not only would it cost us in the neighborhood of $1 million, but we’ll still be living on top of each other in one of these tiny row houses.

So, mommy and daddy decided to expand our house-buying horizons, and now we are moving to Tucson. Which you guys seem totally stoked about, but I’m afraid for the feelings that will come when reality sets in for you. And I’ve got all these childhood memories flooding back to me of how it felt to move. To be the new girl once again. To have to make a new room mine again. To have to get used to a new city’s way of doing things.

I’m sorry to be moving you to a new city. San Francisco is where you were born, and the only home you know. And I hope you’re old enough to remember how awesome that was. But, Tucson is great too. And you’ll find lots to do, and tons of new friends to hang out with.

I understand now how my mom and dad felt each time we moved. How hard it must have been for them to uproot us all those times. But, they were following opportunities, and they knew they were making the best decision. And as parents, that’s all we can do for you guys really, just close our eyes and jump into the abyss and hope this is really as right for our family as it feels right now.

We are going to make the absolute best of Tucson. It’s a fun place to live, very vibrant and beautiful. We are going to make new friends together, we are going to find our new favorite restaurants and parks and museums. We are going to get a new library card and find a new swim school. We are going to be able to do what we do here, it will just be a little different at first. But we’ll get the hang of it.

Let’s also try to enjoy our last three weeks in San Francisco. Let’s go to all of our favorite spots and say goodbye. Goodbye for now, because it’s not as if San Francisco is going anywhere, we can and will visit.

It’s going to be awesome, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. I love you guys.

Mom

Someday You’ll be Taller Than Me, But I’ll Still Hug You When You Cry

Bowie is about to turn 8. And most of the time he’s pretty grown-up acting. He mostly doesn’t need help in the bathroom anymore. He can shower himself, dress himself, and do a lot of his own homework. He can even make himself certain foods.

But, there are still those moments when something in this cruel world didn’t go away, and I find myself hugging my crying baby once again.

I thought the other day, as I just thought about how fast they grow, and the genetics of my family, and how more than likely my sons will both be taller than me. Before I know it.

And I want them to know:

I will always hug you when you cry. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed. If other people shame you, come find your mom. I will always be there for you to let you cry, to support you, to offer advice when you want it.

When I brought you into this world, I took on the role of mother, a role that never ends. I am your mom forever. Even if something happens to you, even if something happens to me, I will always be your mom.

And right now, you are small. Coming to me for a hug when life sucks comes pretty naturally. But as the years go on, you will come to me less and less. But, I hope you never stop coming to me when you need me. You’re never too big or too old to get a good comforting hug from mom, to cry on mom’s shoulders, to get the love you need when the world isn’t giving it to you.

Someday you’ll be taller than me, but I will still hug you when you cry.

The Way Things Are Supposed to Be

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my older son Bowie has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He’s also emotionally volatile and fragile, likely as a result of his condition being misunderstood for so long, but he’s also just a sensitive guy.

My husband, my younger son and I spend a good deal of time just negotiating life with Bowie. Handling outbursts. Avoiding outbursts. Trying to give him everything he needs and deserves to be happy, healthy and successful.

I think, for the most part, we’ve grown accustomed to it. Often people passing us on the street mid-breakdown are astonished at his behavior, and that we appear to be so nonplussed by it. But there are those days when he has one too many breakdowns, and our nervous systems just can’t handle any more. Or, we get a lecture from a stranger about what a shit job we’re doing raising our shit kid. And then I just lose it. My husband appears to hold up okay, but I bet he’s losing it too.

Our younger son Ferris is around the age now that Bowie was when we first started to suspect there might be a problem. And so far, Ferris doesn’t seem to exhibit and of those troublesome traits (knock on wood). He’s a much calmer, more agreeable child. Of course he throws fits, he is just three after all, but it’s nowhere near the level we were dealing with for Bowie.

I find myself sometimes alone with Ferris and thinking, this is how it is supposed to be. This is how it was always supposed to be.

I don’t have to worry about Ferris randomly punching another child. I don’t have to worry about him yelling, “Fuck you!” at another child, or at me. I don’t have to worry that he’ll bite another child, or another parent. I don’t have to drag him kicking and screaming from a crowded public place because he’s completely overwhelmed. I don’t have to worry that he will head butt my face, sock me in the eye or kick me in the teeth.

Yes, Bowie actually did all of these things.

It’s the trouble with having your first child be a child with special needs. If you have another child, you get a glimpse into what a “normal” kid is like, and the whole special needs situation that you thought you had the hang of suddenly seems so very abnormal. 

It’s not that I wish to change Bowie in any way. He is my son and I love him 100%, difficulties and all. I never let my brain get to that place where I start to wish he were different. I stop those thoughts dead in their tracks. Because that’s not how I feel.

Sometimes I just wonder what life would have been like for us, what life could have been like for Bowie, if we weren’t dealing with SPD. It would have shaped our family so differently. But would that have been a good thing or a bad thing?

And how do people cope with larger issues? Bowie’s SPD is no walk in the park, but it’s pretty low on the scale of special needs in kids. What is it like for people who have it a little harder than us? I feel like I should just be grateful that Bowie is difficult, yes, but manageable.

I’d love to hear from other parents of kids with special needs. Or people who are friends with them. Do they ever get caught up in this “what if?” thinking? And do they feel mass amounts of parental guilt because of it? Is it taboo to talk about your other child(ren) as “easier?”

Just some stuff I’ve been musing on lately.

boys

It’s the Most Modest Time of the Year

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. The holidays were simple. Great! But, simple. My mom and dad always did their best, and we always had good gifts.

It wasn’t just Christmastime that it was like that. We ate simply, and I argued with my mom every single year when it was time to get back-to-school clothes. But, the hot pink dress flats! All the girls in my class will have them!

We have a lot more money than my parents did. But, I want to raise my sons to know there’s more to life than possessions. I feel like I grew up with an appreciation for things. With the ability to wait and save up for things I really wanted. How to tell the difference between something I wanted and something I needed. I know the value of a dollar.

In today’s world, this is an all but forgotten concept. Especially in the United States, kids are raised to think they can have anything they want, and be surrounded with stuff. Hardly anyone tries to raise their kids to be happy with what they have, and to be happy with less.

We keep the toy box half empty. They don’t need every single toy they see on TV. And they don’t need 1,000 different things to keep them happy. A set of blocks, a few Matchbox cars, a train set, some art supplies. This fosters creativity, and a true appreciation when we do introduce a new toy. After a while of getting all the toys they want all the time, receiving a gift begins to lose its meaning.

It’s not that I don’t want to shower them with a ton of gifts. I love my children with all my heart, and want them to have more than I did when I was younger. But, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a balance. Good, nice gifts, but not every toy on the shelf. More presents than I got as a kid, but not a gigantic pile under the tree.

What’s your philosophy? Do you get your kids new stuff all the time? If you can’t afford to do that, are you sad that you can’t get more? How do you talk to your kids about money/consumerism?

“Worry is literally betting against yourself.”

Before I even had children, I was worried about how I would pay for their college education.

I’m serious.

I’ve always been a worrier. I worry about pretty much everything. Like, all the time. And, despite helpful tidbits of advice from non-worriers, such as “just stop worrying!” I still do. I can’t help it.

I’ve received a lot of help over the years for my worrying, really my anxiety, but I still tend to worry. A lot.

When I did have my first child, I was told by someone, or I read somewhere, that as a mother, “It’s your job to worry.”

But, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. It’s your job to enjoy their childhood before it’s gone. It’s your job to feed and clothe them, and provide for them. It’s your job to provide them with emotional support. But, it is not your job to worry. If you don’t worry, you’re not being a bad mother (or parent). You’re just a heck of a lot better at dealing with reality than us worriers.

Where did we get it in our heads that it was not only our responsibility to worry, but our job?! As if we were getting paid to be worried. If that were true, I’d be the richest woman on planet earth.

This is where helicopter parenting comes from: worry. Worry that they will fall down and get hurt. Even though when we fell down as children, our parents were like, “Are you bleeding? Don’t get it on the carpet.” Kids get hurt, it just happens. No amount of worrying will prevent it.

And we worry they won’t do well in school. When in reality, all kids do well in some subjects, and not so well in others, and it’s up to us to find the weaknesses and help our children in those areas. Not to accost the teacher and demand that they raise our child’s grades just because. We can help our children, but we cannot learn for them, and no amount of worrying will help us in that area either.

We worry about their health. But this too is pretty pointless. All we can do is take the proper precautionary methods, and the rest is up to the environment. We can try to shield them from germs, inoculate them against diseases, get regular check ups, watch for early signs of trouble. But, they will still get sick, regardless of our worry.

And of course we worry about providing for them. In a world where resources are growing scarce, and money isn’t always there when we need it, we worry that we can’t get what we need. But, there are resources if we really fall into trouble. All we can do is get through one day at a time, making sure we have what we need, and hoping for the best tomorrow.

Me telling someone not to worry is the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black. But I’m going to tell you anyway: stop the madness, stop worrying yourself sick. We can’t sit back and enjoy their babyhood and childhood while it’s here if we’re busy looking at what might or might not happen to them in the future. And we worry ourselves into a tailspin of negative emotions. We get so caught up in fear and worry that we start to be worried for other people’s kids too. And then it’s just too much.

Don’t let fear take over your life, especially not where your kids are concerned. Your job is to love them. That’s it, really.

worry

Remember Them

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. A time I like to write a little something, because, if you did not know, I myself suffered a miscarriage in April 2011. Every year when the date passes, or when we reach this month, I am always shocked at how much time has passed yet how sad it still makes me feel.

There’s a saying that there are some things you never, ever get over, you just get past them and find a new normal. And the death of a child, at whatever stage in their life, is certainly one of those things.

I like to write and talk about my miscarriage, not to make people sad or to hold my own pity party, but to bring awareness. When I had my miscarriage, I was so misinformed and ignorant about the whole thing. I wish I had been more aware of the possibility. I wish I had known how very many other women suffered the same thing. I wish I had known how valid my feelings of sadness, loss and anger were. So, I write and I talk, so that other women won’t feel the way that I did.

I encourage you, too, to open up and talk about your experience. You could make a real difference for a woman suffering in silence. And let’s remember our children that are gone, and never forget them, keep them in our hearts always.

Here are some of my posts from the past about my experience:

Loss

One Year

I am the Face

What’s the Haps

Hi all. Now that it’s fall, and the kids are back in school, and everyone is back from whatever fabulous summer adventure they went on, I get asked a lot, “What’s new?” My answer is long and rambly, because there’s a lot of little random new things with me. Thought I’d share it with my bloggy friends too.

1. I got a nose ring. Not really big news. But, new. A modest tiny shiny stone of some sort. Most people don’t even notice it, even people I’ve known for years. When I point it out they say it “just fits your personality.” Which I don’t know how to take, I guess. But, it’s fun, and it’s one of those things I always wanted to do. Actually, when I got my eyebrow pierced 15 years ago (I’ve since taken that one out) I had regrets that I didn’t do the nose instead. So, another one checked off the bucket list. And I love it.

2. I am in school! I’m in an online program with Penn Foster for a vet tech degree. It’s like a nurse but for animals. I’m so excited, and can’t wait to be done and get a fun job. I have always had a love for animals, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how intensely I love them and I want to work with them. I think it’s a combo of losing my 19 year old kitty recently, and through the magic of the Internet, seeing that there are so many animals that need help. Pets get surrendered at shelters and rescue organizations for the dumbest things, like “he pooped too much.” And all the abused and neglected animals, it just breaks my heart. With my degree I’d like to work with the SPCA or a shelter or rescue organization. It will feel so wonderful to get to work with animals every day, and make a difference in their lives.

3. Speaking of animals, we recently got two pet rats. Their names are Laverne and Shirley, after the show, which was a childhood favorite of mine. (The vet called to confirm “Shirley and Laverne’s check up” and I was like wut. Somebody doesn’t know their 80s TV shows.) They are sweet and gentle and wonderful. I was worried that our cat would torment them and stalk their cage. She has a history. But, she seems like she couldn’t care less. They, of course, are terrified of her, but that’s easily solved. They really are a great pet for kids. Better than a hamster or gerbil because they can be easily handled, and smaller than a bunny or guinea pig for keeping in your house. And I have not been bitten once, not even a nip, they’re very gentle. Two more members of the family.

thegirls

4. Ferris turned three! I really should be dedicating an entire post to that, but who has the time? H’s really forming his little personality, and it’s so fun.  He asks for water all the time now. It’s only so he can fake belch, but whatever, he’s drinking water. Favorite phrases: “No.” “I hate it.” “I love it.” “Two minutes.” (As in, I’ll do it in two minutes, a phrase picked up from mommy and daddy.) He absolutely loves miniature people and furniture and animals, so we got him a dollhouse for his birthday. Big hit. And he’s hit the picky eating stage. He used to be my great eater, I bragged about it all the time. No more. In case you were wondering if a kid could survive and grow on milk and white bread, I’m here to tell you yes, it’s possible.

5. Bowie started second grade. His teacher this year is amazing. We are over the moon for her. She was immediately so much more supportive of his classroom needs and tolerant of his issues. I couldn’t be happier. There’s only been one major incident with another child, and even that was mild. This time last year, we’d already had two classroom meetings and a meeting with the principal, and he was back in OT. He’s now not currently in OT and we’ve not had a single call from school. I’m so happy. For me, but so much more for him. He’s figuring it out. I am so glad to see him growing and maturing in this way.

So, there you have it. Lots going on. But life is good. What’s the haps with you?