*That* Kid

Have you ever noticed how something seemingly small – a slight remark, a subtle expression, a wave of a hand – has the power to take you from a peak to a valley almost instantly?  Everyone has these moments; I’m sure it’s not just my overly sensitive interpretation of the world, right?

Here’s what I’ve learned as a parent: you never stop learning.  With each new age for you child comes new joys, but also new challenges, leaving us the task of learning to navigate these uncharted and sometimes raging waters with our wits and our faith.  And the stars.  Isn’t that what sailors did hundreds of years ago? As a mom of two boys, I do feel like a Viking conqueror, especially after bathtime.

Today I was surprised with a short but important conversation with an educator from our boys’ preschool.  My usual emotional state is challenged by surprises like this; I like time to gather my thoughts and gain perspective, but I’m also learning we aren’t always afforded that luxury in the world of education.  Since this chat left me with big feelings I wasn’t quite sure what to do with, I’m putting them in a popular place for me: written words.  Make way for my emotional dump-truck.

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Also:

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If you know my older son, you know he’s spirited.  He’s energetic.  He’s fully embraces life with every fiber of his being.  He’s strong-willed.  He’s bright.  He is me, made over.  These are a few of the sometimes-challenging but always-endearing qualities of my firstborn.  As a parent, it’s very difficult to hear your terms for your child’s personality phrased in ways like “He’s boisterous.  He’s disruptive.  He’s distracting.  He’s defiant.”  It’s difficult because you see the best; you see your child, and know that while there are times of struggle, they are far outweighed by the times of great joy.

It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy – this rings truest when you become a parent.  From the moment your tiny human arrives in this world, people will unknowingly (or, in some cases, intentionally) cause you to second-guess your abilities, your choices, your methods.  Is he crawling?  Walking?  Eating solids?  Using the toilet?  Counting to 20?  Writing is name?  You begin to look at other kids, other families, and wonder if you just might be doing something wrong.  It’s a natural train of thought.

Where behavior is concerned, your feelings of inadequacy increase.  When you see a classmate sitting quietly, writing their numbers, after you’ve been told that your child is “unable” to do the same, it gives you pause.  It sometimes wakes up a small voice in the back of your mind that starts a sentence, “I wish my kid would…”

Would…what?  This is the truth that not many share: we’ve all had the thought.  You wish they would sit still, listen, learn their sight words, learn algebra, the list goes on and on.  And as soon as you allow that tiny, little voice to occupy space in your brain, the next voice moves in with it: guilt.  You wonder: Why do I think this?  And you feel an overwhelming sense of guilt, because you find yourself suddenly not appreciating your child’s unique personality.

The truth is, you don’t need to feel guilty.  Yes, our children are a joyous blessing, sweet little miracles who fill our lives with happiness.  But do you know what else they do?  Fill the vegetable crisper with LEGOs.  Fill the dishwasher with the 15 Batman action figures they own.  Fill the bathtub with markers without caps.  Fill your brain with the sort of “where am I?” fuzzies you sometimes had in your early 20s.  Oh, there are some very full days around here.  Human emotion is raw and honest, but it’s not bad.  It’s essential to know how we feel, so we can accept it and move on.

You also don’t need to think I wish my kid would…

Here’s what I’ve learned: your kid will, but in his own time.  Your children are snowflakes.  (YES, I SAID SNOWFLAKES)  Of course they are delicate creatures, but I also mean it in the sense that they are different.  They are unique individuals, capable of a whole heck of a lot, but not always when we expect (or prefer).  As a parent, I’ve learned we have to seriously let go of our own expectations.  Our children are humans, just like us.  They have thoughts, feelings, ideas, and plans.  They bloom in their own time, and it cannot be rushed.

But how does that knowledge help me now, today, when I’m realizing my spirited and unique child is suddenly being viewed as “that kid” by others?  You know the one.  It’s the child who makes others, total strangers, say a very similar line: I wish that kid would…

And those words put in that context, man it hurts.  It breaks my heart.  It leaves me feeling as if I’ve somehow failed over the past 4.5 years, without realizing it.  And when I hear those words from a stranger, it makes me realize what it’s like when we think those words.  When did we forget that children are just that – children?  When did we begin to expect they would do things far beyond their young years, far beyond their emotional maturity, far beyond what they should be doing?  When did we deem it acceptable to put pressure on them from such a young age?  Heartbreak territory, when you see the world is trying to make your child grow up before they should.  I want to treasure these wild moments, and remember them forever…not squash them.  When did being a kid suddenly become something we need do address?

So, what do I do?  No clue.  I’m not sitting here with the answers tonight; in fact, this is Great Parenting Truth #476: sometimes (okay, lots of times) there are no answers.  At least none that immediately present themselves.  This is like typhoon waves at midnight, with my compass going overboard and clouds covering the stars.  The Loch Ness Monster is probably waiting for me next.  Mrs. Loch Ness is probably teaching kindergarten next year, right?!

When folks say hindsight is 20/20, I can tell you this: those folks are parents.  I know that we’ll continue doing what we do: loving, supporting, nurturing, learning, growing.  I will remind myself daily (or hourly) that there is no growth without challenge.  I will embrace every minute of this, because I know it will continue to pass quickly, and I’ll miss finding rocks in my shoes one day.  I will try to remind others that these are still children, and we should have little expectations.  And I will remind them that they are humans, like us, and deserve the same respect and grace we (should) extend to each other.

Give it some time.  Even the lotus blooms from muck.

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The Trifecta

A few weeks ago, we had a pretty big weekend.  First, Grant slept all night.  ALL NIGHT.  Like, ten consecutive hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Second, Grant got his first tooth.  Seems counterintuitive to sleeping through the night, right?  But those things happened.  And third, Miles officially learned how to use the toilet full-time.  That was The Trifecta.

But we’ve learned that with all things awesome, there can sometimes be a little catch.  A little something unexpected.  Or expected.  It happens.

The caveats to our trifecta weekend:

Sleeping through the night.  In all of Grant’s time on earth, he has slept through the night less than a handful of times (that’s less than five, people).  It’s no biggie, really, because we’ve learned that after you have one kid you never, ever sleep the same again.  Every sneeze, roll, squeak and meow will awaken you, probably because parents never truly enter REM sleep.  It’s the sort of insomnia in which you can fall asleep just fine, but wake up shortly thereafter, and repeatedly throughout the night.  Grant settled into the routine of waking up once overnight to eat, and he’s kept that same pattern.  Around 2am, I know he’s going to call us to cash in our “ha, you thought you were going to sleep?!” tab.  He’s only up long enough to eat, but I often find myself up long enough to watch three episodes of Roseanne (side note: I can tell you TV Land’s entire overnight programming schedule).  When Grant did sleep through the night, we relished in the uninterrupted hours (although I woke up twice just to make sure I was actually sleeping) but we did know it was probably a fluke.  And it was.  One day, he’ll be a teenager and he’ll sleep all night and then some (right?  please tell me he’ll sleep one day…) but until then, we exhaustingly enjoy our special time at 2am.  Every night.  Without fail.

The first tooth.  Aah, the first tooth is awesome because IT’S THE FIRST TOOTH!  But the first tooth can also make your sweet baby a total asshole.  So, there’s the caveat.  Grant has been an adorable jerk for a week or so now, and this tooth popping up explains it all.

Learning to use the toilet.  This is awesome, right?  I mean it’s one less kid in diapers.  But it is also a weapon to be used against you.  For example, Miles thinks he should get marshmallows every time he poops now.  He also manages to make bedtime last a full 45 minutes longer than usual because he knows that we don’t know if he really needs to go to the bathroom and we will naturally respond to every “Moooom, I have to peeee!” by escorting him to the bathroom half a dozen times until he finally gives up and realizes that 1). we aren’t letting him stay up and 2). you do not get marshmallows every time you sit on the toilet.  Yes, our lives are controlled by this three foot tall dictator.

All of these things are awesome, and we are super proud.  Super tired, but super proud.

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I buy Café Bustelo in bulk now.

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Winning isn’t everything (unless it’s bedtime).

The Global Parenting Truth: Consistently easy bedtimes are the unicorn of the toddler universe. That’s not to say bedtime is a never-ending battle of wits (although I’m sure it is for some – and for you, parents of bedtime battlers, I send you wine and chocolate and coffee) but bedtime, at least in our house, is always an adventure.

Bathtime has always been a dad thing. Maybe Dad is the fun bathtime guy because he lets Miles bring 847 Batman toys into the tub, along with every triceratops, stegosaurus, t-rex and other –aurus type prehistoric creatures. Once Miles hit a certain age, he decided that just because bathtime had ended didn’t mean he needed to say goodnight to these metal and plastic toys of bedtime weaponry. Oh no; we needed to bring them to bed with us.

So my husband is sort of a pushover when it comes to things like this. He’ll admit it himself (LOVE YOU, HONEY). The nightly challenge of choosing two toys and two toys only to bring to bed began. And, as with any toddler negotiation, this easily escalated into three, four, five, and then seventeen thousand toys. I’m positive there was a night I asked Miles if he would just prefer sleeping in his toy box with a pillow because clearly that’s the direction in which we were headed. (Note: don’t ask toddlers questions like that, because the answer is always YES)

But it wasn’t enough to bring all the toys to bed; oh, no…we had to bring the toys with pieces. Legos. Guys who wore hats. Dogs with construction trucks. Do you know what happens to a toddler’s world when his Lego guy loses a hat before he falls asleep? CHAOS.

Miles: “Mama! Daddy! Mama! Daddy! Come in! Quick!”

Me: *running because clearly this is an emergency* “Hey buddy, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

Miles: “Ryder fell off his motorcycle.”

Me: “…”

For those who aren’t as “with it” as parents of toddlers are, you should know that Ryder is on Paw Patrol. He rides an ATV and leads dogs around town to save the day. I could give you a more detailed explanation but A). It’s sort of weird I know this much about Paw Patrol and B). It’s even weirder that I really like Paw Patrol and could write an overly lengthy thesis on it because C). I was like a NO TV EVER mom and now I’m like an “Okay, some TV is fine if it means I can cook dinner and go to the bathroom without worrying about you climbing on the dining room table.” What were we talking about?

BEDTIME.

So, Ryder fell off his motorcycle. And guess what? I put him back on. Then at 8:17p, he fell off again. He fell off at 8:23p, 8:35p, and 8:52p. Like good hippie parents, we want Miles to have his things in his space, but we had reached the point of needing to stop this incessant Ryder falling off his ATV thing. And so, we instilled A LIMIT. Dun dun dun.

Miles: “Mama! Mama, come quick!”

Me: “Yes, Miles?”

Miles: “Mama, Ryder fell off AGAIN. He’s so silly.”

Me: “Okay Miles, I will put Ryder back on one time, and one time only. If he falls off again, you will need to either learn how to put him back on yourself, or let Ryder sleep without riding his ATV.”

BOOM. Limit = set.

The following night, Miles wanted to take his entire menagerie of rubber insects to bed. And this time, we introduced yet another limit: two toys, and two toys only. And the nightly process of choosing which two would stay began again. Just like that, the limit was set again.

But of course a child can’t just take a toy to bed and go to sleep. No, toys are to be played with, and we both understand and expect that to happen. The reality is that none of us just lay down and fall asleep. We read, we watch TV, we think about the day, but we need some time to unwind. For Miles, that time involves our nightly routine of bathtime, jammies and the longest Dr. Seuss books he can find, but even then, he’s not necessarily ready to sleep. And so he usually talks to his stuffed animals or toys after we’ve said goodnight.

The occasional chat with his four teddy bears or Thomas the Train turned into what sounded like a demolition derby through the monitor. Certain toys – ones with wheels – must be played with on top of the dresser. WHO KNEW?! And so, another limit was introduced: no toys with wheels. Something along the lines of, “Fine, Mom” was the response, but I ignored this because I’m not ready to have a teenager.

Miles would still get a little rambunctious with his bedtime companions, and so I reminded him that if it was difficult for him to fall asleep with the toys, and that if he felt the need to play instead of just putting them to bed with him, we would need to say goodnight to our toys in the tub. He nodded in understanding.

And now…NOW, I was winning. The next night, we had our regular routine. Miles chose his two favorite Batmen of the day. We put on jammies, we read The Lorax and Little Blue Truck and Goodnight Moon. We snuggled and talked about the day. We said goodnight. I closed the door.

Standing in the kitchen washing the days dishes, I noticed how calm and peaceful and blessedly quiet it was in the house. No one was asking me to put some guy back on an ATV, or put a hat back on a Lego, and no one was mashing buttons on a damn Thomas the Train that can’t stop telling me he has big important jobs to do (JUST GO TO SLEEP, THOMAS). I was winning!

I washed dishes. I put on my PJs. I sat down to read. I silently patted myself on the back and congratulated my ability to set limits and talk to my child and come to a mutual agreement. For the love, I actually knew what I was doing.

Then my husband got home, and asked why Miles’ bedroom light was on, since it was now 8:30p.

‘Scuse me. His light is on?!

I walked down the hallway and as sure as the sky is blue, there was a sliver of light peeking from beneath his door. I opened it, and found Miles playing very, very quietly at his train table, with soft toys that make no noise.

“Mama, look how quiet I can be!”

And I laughed, because he’s cute, and he’s also much smarter than me. You see, our discussion had frequently involved the fact that bedtime was a quiet time. Well, here he was, being quiet. Who am I to argue when he’s truly doing the one thing I was asking him to do?

The truth is that I am consistently outsmarted, but in the most adorable way. You win some, you win some.

PS – It’s important to know that as I sat here writing, I was summoned by my tiny dictator to come to his room so he could tell me that his new big trucks do not, in fact, fit behind his headboard. IMPORTANT. Kids are so weird.

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Some Updates – Now Featuring Vomit!

A few days ago, someone mentioned to me that it had been several weeks since I’d shared anything. They wanted to know if I was “done” writing; well, I’m not, and knowing that someone maybe kind of missed my rambling was encouraging. So think of this as my State of the Union Address.

Truthfully, I knew I’d take a little break after my last post. I felt that once those words were shared, they would need some time to breathe and just exist. I received so many calls, texts and emails with outpourings of love, for which I am very grateful. Some shared words of encouragement, others shared words of thanks, and a few shared their own similar stories. I am reminded again of how valuable and important this tribe is – we who lift, support and lean on each other. Words couldn’t adequately express how blessed and loved I am to have you in my life.

And so, much like a fine wine, I gave those words time to breathe…but not long, because I’m not big on letting my wine breathe, especially since my “fine” wine is classified as anything costing over $13 a bottle without a screw-cap.

Typical Friday night.

Typical Friday night.

The hiatus extended because life happens. In our current state, life primarily consists of three rounds of the stomach flu and an upper respiratory infection. It’s also worth noting that as soon as I sat down to write this, one of the cats projectile vomited in the hallway outside the kids’ rooms. I know this because I didn’t just step in it; I walked through the two foot trail of puke, each step growing more startled and revolted and hastened. So, I quickly ran through puke and nearly slipped and fell, but so help me I’m going to sit down and drink this glass of wine and write this because I don’t know when a). someone will wake up or b). someone/cat will throw up and c). I have zombies I need to watch, so let’s move it along.

Typical Sunday night.

Typical Sunday night.

What was I saying? Oh yes, puke. I’ve shared stories of vomit before, and I’ve even written about what it’s like for your very first child to be sick for the very first time (red poop, right?)

Now I can add another notch to my Belt of Parental Experiences: Our first trip to the Emergency Room.

Three weeks ago (I think – so much exhaustion, so little coffee) I woke up in the middle of the night to feed Grant because 2am is peak party time in our house (side note: isn’t life funny? Like ten years ago, you’re staying awake until 2am on purpose and now if I’m not in bed by 10p I feel like I’m a long-haul trucker coming off a three day NoDoze binge after delivering lumber in Alaska). Once Grant and I were done, I headed back to bed. I heard Miles cough through the baby monitor, but didn’t think much of it since he’d been fine when he went to sleep. Half an hour later I awoke to this horrific noise, sort of like the sound you’d hear if someone swallowed a kazoo and tried breathing through their mouth afterward.

Miles is a child who very rarely gets sick. I was naturally concerned, and by “concerned” I mean “panicking and consulting WebMD.” I asked Evan what he thought we should do. I always ask Evan not only because he’s my partner, but because I know he’ll help balance out my crazy. The noise was loud enough and scary enough for him to confirm my thoughts: go to the emergency room.

I packed a bag, grabbed my wallet, got dressed and got Miles ready to load up. We (as in just the two of us) walked outside at 3:30am and my child marveled at the sight of the moon and stars, something he doesn’t see very often because he goes to bed at 8pm. “Mama, the moon is so BIG! The stars are so PRETTY!” I realized that his breathing had improved quite a bit; he wasn’t running a fever, didn’t have any weird spots, but I think it’s safe to say that rational, sound decisions aren’t generally made during the hours of 2a-4a, and since we were dressed and packed and loading up I knew we’d just stay the course and go to the hospital.

For the brief ride, Miles continued marveling at these nighttime sights. Cars on the road, empty parking lots, the dark sky. He thought we were on some sort of adventure, in which he got to wear his pajamas and take his blankie.

We arrived to an empty waiting room and checked in. I carried Miles, his blanket, two teddy bears, one stuffed tiger, a sippy cup and a bag. I refused to let anyone or anything in our large caravan touch any object or surface in the waiting room because if we weren’t sick now, we certainly would be later.

The adventure continued as a nurse took us back to check Miles’ vitals (all fine, of course). Miles got to hold a stethoscope, wear a surgical mask, and attempt to open all unsecured cabinets and drawers. I reassured the nurse that less than an hour ago, I was positive he’d somehow managed to swallow a toy in his sleep and it was most definitely lodged in his throat. He was sick.

We hiked four miles back to triage where the game of “TOUCH ALL THE THINGS!” continued. A gentleman with an upper GI bleed was admitted and being treated in the room next to ours which began the game of “If I could only sneak next door…” and “Did she just drop a hypodermic needle?” followed by “I DON’T WANT TO STAY IN THIS ROOM ANY LONGER! WATCH ME WRITHE IN ANGER AND PAIN!”

Three nurses, one albuterol treatment, one x-ray and one doctor visit later, and we were diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and prescribed a steroid. Miles skipped (!!!) all the way to the exit. And again I told the nurse he really was sick.

We filled the prescription and were given a liquid that surely tasted like radiator fluid. Miles would not be ingesting this. We tried hiding it in juice, ice cream, chocolate frosting – nothing. I called the pharmacist three times to beg for another form of the medication and I was met with more suggestions like, “put it in honey!” I told her she surely must not have children.

Four lost doses and one vomit session later (it really did taste that bad) we gave up. I called his regular pediatrician the next day and we were prescribed the same steroid in a dissolvable tablet that tasted like powdered sugar, which now has me convinced that there are certain folks in the medical field who make decisions based solely on entertainment value.

So he took the steroid, great! Right? Well, in toddlers and children, most steroids sort of turn them into feral animals. Case in point: naptime.

Miles usually naps from about 12-3p without issue. On the first day of the steroid, after an hour of climbing on the dresser, unscrewing the sippy cup and pouring milk all over the room, trying to take down both sets of blinds and successfully crawling underneath the bed and “hiding”, he gave up in a fit of exhaustion and went to sleep. And we did this for FIVE DAYS. Is it wrong for me to say I was sort of happy Monday showed up, and I got to take him to school? Because I was. Poor baby, yes, but have you ever tried to put a wet cat in a burlap sack feet first? That’s a toddler on a Prednisone.

Typical Saturday naptime on Prednisone.

Typical Saturday naptime on Prednisone.

The day of his last dose, I threw confetti and drank champagne and relished in the fact that I wouldn’t need to pull a kid off the ceiling fan to get them in the bathtub anymore (I hope). And here we are, a few weeks later, and all is fine. Well, Miles caught our stomach virus, but other than the vomiting this past Thursday and Friday, all is fine. I think we’ve met our quota for the year.

So after a few weeks of words breathing and toddlers wheezing and mom and dad vomiting, know that I’m still here. I have a lot of half-written things that I will eventually get whole-written and share, as long as I have enough coffee. And wine. And chocolate. That is the current State of the Union.

Next up: the Mom of Two Kids Under Three Years Old Diet.  It’s as easy as making dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets (because sometimes it is making dinosaur chicken nuggets…)

XX,

K