My Child is Not a “Brat”…He’s Just TWO!

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Here’s the thing. I know that toddlers can be brats. I know that with the tantrums and the meltdowns and the sleep deprivation most parents will utter “little brat” under their breath 50 times a day while reminding themselves they can’t kill their child. I know it’s not fun or entertaining when a toddler has a complete meltdown in the middle of the restaurant or Target, and I KNOW that’s the first thing outsiders think too. The stranger observing with contempt on their face and judgement in their eyes believe he’s spoiled, I’m a terrible mom, he’s just a brat, and on and on.

But the truth is, generally they are NOT brats. We’re just tired, impatient and frankly, completely ignorant adults. Having the sandwich in triangles instead of squares may not seem important to an adult, but how many times have YOU sent back a sandwich because it had the tomatoes you asked them to remove? Same thing. We’ve just learned to deal with our disappointments.

So when my sitter took my son to the park today and promptly returned less than ten minutes later I was a little taken a back. “He wouldn’t listen. He kept trying to run in the street, chase the older kids, climb the tree, and then just started throwing a fit. He was being a brat.” Ok. So what did you say to him? Did you try to redirect him? Did you forget I told you he loves the outdoors, older kids, and climbs like a monkey? Did you miss the part where I said he has cabin fever and letting him run would be good for him? Did you truly think you could sit on the bench and simply watch this two year old run amuck?

Let’s be clear. When I average 5 hours of sleep a night, my incredible patience for children that I was so proud of and reveled in years ago as a teacher, has totally disappeared as a parent. I hear Bill Cosby’s “Jeffrey” skit from his As Himself standup every time I talk to my kid. Like a skipped record I say his name 100 times a day. Like the crazy guy on the street I talk to myself in exasperated mumbles over lukewarm coffee while watching him run circles around the kitchen island just because.

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“Come here come here come here come here! STOP!!! Come here come here…” is repeated like a mantra while chasing an unnervingly fast, naked, 3 ft human through the house at bath nightly. I marvel as my child goes totally deaf regardless of the amazing amounts of noise in the house, until he hears Facebook autoplay a video on my news feed on my phone. I, like so many of my fellow toddler parents, feel like banging my head against a wall would produce more results than trying to reason with a toddler in the throws of a tantrum.

But YOU, dear sitter, you have that blessed break I took for granted so long ago. You get to go home, recuperate, take a pause…eat regularly.

So when YOU tell me “He won’t listen,” my first response is “Yes. And?”

As a sitter I understood I had one job. To take care of the kids. But with that comes some seemingly obvious obligations that strangely elude my sitters. I shouldn’t HAVE to tell you these things, I’m paying you to watch my son…not watch NetFlix with my son, yet here I am listing out your job duties when I pay to you come to my house to watch my child.

1) Turn It Off. No. Really. Turn off the TV, iPad, PS4, Wii, XBox and tablet. He watches enough electronics when you are not here because I work at home and that’s how my husband and I decompress. Frankly if I wanted him watching TV all day, I wouldn’t pay you to be here because I own a laptop.

2) Put your phone away. I’m not paying you to text your boyfriend, update your status on Facebook, tweet your bestie, or email your teacher an update on your report. Just because you don’t get W2s from me, doesn’t mean it’s not a job.

3) PLAY WITH MY KID. In the words of Cher from Clueless: “Um. Duh!” Of all things I’m listing, this seems the most asinine. Don’t sit on the couch and repeatedly say “Play with your blocks Damian.” Get off your tiny little butt and play blocks WITH him. He’s has a lot of toys to play with…he wants to play them with you. He’s not a plant. Engage for god’s sake.

4) Cook. I know you are able to feed yourself and I happen to have a whole kitchen full of food. Snacks, meals, left overs, bread, peanut butter, fish sticks, fruits….so stop asking me what to feed him. He’s not a lizard. Unless I give explicit instructions one way or another, figure it out.

5) Take him outside. I’m an introvert. He’s a toddler boy. So he doesn’t get to run as much as he, or I, would like. So when it’s sunny and nice don’t ASK me…just go. You know where the stroller is, how to get to the park, and how to open the back door. If you leave my property, let me know. Otherwise, take him outside. Let him get dirty, let him run, let him explore, or just splash in the splash pool I made him. You won’t have to deal with the exhaustion later if he doesn’t take a nap, so what’s your excuse?

6) Read, play with play dough, or just color. He doesn’t HAVE to be running, getting dirty, or listening to something all the time. He and I will sit for a long time while I make play dough balls and he practices cutting with a butter knife.

7) Talk to him. He speaks, just not English. When he says “Wa Wa” over and over, say “Do you want water? Ok. Say Please.” He’s trying to talk to you, just talk back.

8) CLEAN UP!!! I really don’t mind messes. Honestly. But nothing ticks me off more than when I come home and my son’s stuff is everywhere. I’m not asking you to do dishes, scrub the toilet, or to wash my underwear…but do I REALLY have to ask you to clean up his stuff? Especially when it was clean before I left??

9) Leave. This one kills me. I have no problem doing a ten minute small talk, getting the details of the day with him, telling me about your upcoming placement test…but chatting with me for 30 minutes when I’ve said “thank you” or “Ok I have to get dinner started” or “Ok Let’s go get some milk handsome!” 15 times like you’re trying to milk the time just annoys me. I know when I came back, which means I know what time I clocked you out.

I truly can’t believe I have to list this next one.

10) Wash. His. FACE! I have boxes of baby wipes everywhere, real wash clothes at an arms reach, paper towels on the counter, and if all else fails…tissues. There is NO reason I should come home and my son’s face have gunk on it, his shirt be dirty, or his hands sticky. Remember what I said about not minding messes? If he’s still eating, fine. But if lunch has been over for an hour and he’s playing with his trucks he shouldn’t look like a street urchin.

 

Listen. I’m not asking for Mary Poppins, I probably can’t afford her anyway, but for all that is holy WHY is this list not common sense?!

So I say again, no. My kid is not a brat. You’re just not doing your job.

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I’m Not Sure I Was Meant To Be A Mom…

  
It’s 9:10am, my son is eating breakfast, finally. Not “finally” because he won’t eat…but because I couldn’t pull myself out of bed. he’s been up since 7:15. Because of technology, he’s able to watch a show while snuggling with mom (something he loves), while I can sleep longer and know he won’t move. I finally got out of bed solely because he was having a tantrum because my phone suddenly wouldn’t work. At all. Siri, the dumb robot, worked. Not well, obviously, but that was it. A touch phone is useless if you can’t actually TOUCH anything. I have a screaming headache, my husband is gone for another 6 days on his business trip, I have no time for my work, I’ve only left the house in three weeks to feed my son and get groceries…I haven’t even talked to my mom in weeks. I’m in a bad mood and angry. Again.

No. I lied. I leave to go to meetings. What used to annoy me and feel like I wasted gas half the time (this is why we have Zoom!) now feels like a welcome vacation. I put on makeup, I fix my hair, I wear real clothes…I talk to an adult!! Sometimes the meetings go “longer than I intended”, but truth be told it’s because I don’t want to go home. But that means I have to pay a sitter. By not having much time to work right now, I kinda feel like I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  
I’m rambling a bit, but I feel like I have to paint the picture…this is normal for me. I’m too tired to go anywhere, I’m too tired to DO anything, I yell a lot, and we watch way more TV than I’m comfortable with. I work until 2 and 3am because after 9 is the only time the house is quiet and I can focus, but that means I average no more than 5 hours of sleep a night. My house is a disaster because I just don’t have the energy to care, and we eat out way more than we should because when my son is actually taking a good nap, I don’t dare get up from the computer lest my eating causes my son to instinctively know I’m taking a break.

I was an amazing teacher, and a fantastic nanny. Two years after I stopped nannying, the kids not only remembered me but requested I come over while they were back in the states. Innumerable parents have come up to me, 15 years after the fact, and say “My kid still remembers when you babysat! They loved you! You were always their favorite!” Parents at my preschool were constantly asking if I could sit, or be a part time nanny during summer. I played with them, we made epic messes, we had awesome crafts, they were always fed good food, they went to bed and nap on time, we went on adventures, and the house was always clean when the parents came back.

  

My son has never had any of that from me.

I feel like I’m failing him because even though I use techniques to teach him to drink from a cup, eat with a fork, recognize letters and numbers, even sign until he can verbally communicate…I’m not fun. I’m kind of a bitch, to be honest. I always wondered why my mom would yell so much, now all I do is yell. There are days I just don’t even want to be around him.

It’s not his fault, he’s brilliant and beautiful and inquisitive and everything a toddler SHOULD be. But instead of reveling in the fact that I now have a constant playmate to build forts with and teach the cool science of cornstarch and water…I get irritated he won’t leave the kitchen while I cook. Because he wants to be held.

I love my son beyond words, but I can’t help but feel like maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a mom. Maybe I was just supposed to be the awesome aunt, because my child isn’t getting a quarter of what I gave to other people’s kids for years…and he deserves so much more than that.

Cardboard Awesomeness!

Check out the recent blog I did for Portland Mom’s Blog! Stay tuned, I’ll be doing a few followups for DIY toys!!

http://portland.citymomsblog.com/activities/diy-toys-cardboard-awesomeness/

People have truly and sadly forgotten the awesomeness of cardboard. It’s everywhere, comes in unlimited sizes and shapes, stupid cheap or free, and can always be recycled when you are finished. And all kids LOVE. IT. Here are the very beginning levels of cardboard awesomeness.

Random Mom Thought #55

You know you’re doing SOMETHING right as a parent when you have music playing all morning and your 16-month old drops everything to come running to be closer to the speaker while dancing likes he means it when “The Way You Make Me Feel” by MJ comes on.

Why yes! Yes I am VERY proud!

 

I Wish Him Love…

Because it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, I felt this was the most appropriate time to write about this.

I am a part of at least 5 Facebook mom groups, and recently each of them, in some form or another, asked the general question “What do you wish for your kids?”.

The normal, expected things were stated 500 times over: success, happiness, great marriage, beautiful house, health, college education, kids, security, and on. Who wouldn’t want all those things for their children? I want those things for Damian most definitely…

But I want more than that. So very much more than that for him.

In the literally thousands of replies over the few months between the different groups when the question was asked, no one…NO. ONE. said what seemed to be completely obvious to me, what I’ve whispered and wished on him and spoken into existence thousands of times.

“I want you to have someone that loves you as much as I love your daddy.” 

More than anything in the world. I wish my son love.

No… not the artful postures of love, not playful and poetical games of love for the amusement of an evening, but love that… overthrows life. Unbiddable, ungovernable – like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love – like there has never been in a play. ~ Viola De Lesseps, Shakespeare in Love

When people see Jeremy and I, they assume we are “newly weds” or that we have a “young relationship”…you know, the ones that are still in the obsessive phase where the other person is perfect? He is most definitely not perfect, but neither am I. That’s the beauty of it. We’ve been together nine years come March, and our fifth anniversary was New Year’s Eve. We are very, VERY far from perfect.

Not to put a damper on all the good intentions of the well-wishing moms of the world, but shit happens. Serious, awful, devastating shit happens. People lose jobs, hurricanes destroy homes, college doesn’t guarantee a future, happiness is fickle, there’s a million levels of success, and security is an illusion.

But the love I have for that man? The one I call “husband”? Oh my god.

We were told once “maybe you love each other too much” like it was a bad thing to be willing to go to the ends of the earth and beyond for another person. Then we realized, we have a gift that is rather unfamiliar, unorthodox, and extremely rare. We’ve gone through hell and back, walked through some amazingly awful times together, nearly ended it all because of toxic people in our life, and lost everything. Twice. We cancelled our wedding because his mother said she wouldn’t show, dealt with crazy exes, a shared child from another mother that we hardly see at all, severe health issues and going to school while working, and then some. All that and we’re only in our early thirties.

The point is, regardless of what happens (because life happens) there is one undeniable fact that is as true today as it was nine years ago in March in a basement where I said “I love you” without restraint or hesitation only weeks after meeting my soulmate. I love the man that has CHOSEN me (and he can just as easily choose to walk away) to share his life with me with every fiber of my being, and it’s because I know he loves me in the same “The Notebook/Outlander/Titanic/Casablanca/Shakespearean/Princess Bride” type way that people think is just make believe. But it’s not. We just wouldn’t settle for less.

So yes. The one thing, above all, that I wish for my son is true love.

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Oh The Things You Can Do!

Eight months ago, I started writing this post…then in whirlwind of life, I forgot about it. I never finished. At first I thought about deleting it all, then I realized “Oh my god. I forgot about the whole incident!” Read on…

Two days ago, my son pulled himself up to standing. He’d been attempting for a small while, and because I’m wanting be able to relive every amazing moment of his life in 20 years, I had my camera ready.

We have one of those half infant half toddler tubs from Target. It’s been his only tub, and because we’ve stood him up every single night in the tub since birth to wash that tiny little butt, it’s not surprising this was where he attempted, and accomplished, his newfound talent. If you’ve ever seen these tubs you know that the infant side is sloped like a spa tub so he could lay back and just splash. As he grew and could sit unassisted, we flipped it around to the toddler side…where he could splash. He gathered a few weeks ago that where the head goes on the infant side could be used as a handle and has been pulling himself up and over to flatten his tummy on the slope to generally reach around for things at a new angle. Recently, with the help of mom and dad, he’s been standing much faster from a laying or sitting position while on the floor.

So this night, we saw his little brain working, while he was wiggling and reaching and splashing. Jeremy sat on the floor to catch, I worked the camera. He leaned forward, grabbed ahold of the infant side and very slowly straightened his legs. He concentrated so hard, wobbled a bit and fell backwards. Then he did it again. And again. And again. Each time he got sturdier, and thus more confident. Each time Jeremy and I held our breath so we wouldn’t break his concentration. Each time, I got closer and closer to sobbing.

Finally, he did it. He stood up, stayed sturdy (as much as you can having never really used your legs before now) straightened his torso and walked his hands up the seat in the shower…and promptly grabbed for the shampoo.

Damian stood up that day...May 11, 2014

Damian stood up that day…May 11, 2014

I have never been SO proud in my life! Then I realized: except when he rolled over the first time, or sat up without assistance, or we felt teeth buds, or when he ate solid foods, or when I lost him in the living room because he’d rolled from one side to the other, or when he nursed for the very first time.

My kid is amazing. I know, moms…right? But seriously. Amazing! Maybe not because he’s developing wonderfully or because he’s so chill or because I still feel I don’t deserve this tiny miracle, but I think he’s amazing because he simply is. When exactly do we become so tarnished and beaten that we think one decent effort is “good enough”? I keep replaying how many times, and for how many weeks, did he try standing? What if I tried something that hard?! What could I do? Talk amount blowing your mind…

Amazing right? How on EARTH could I forget about it?! The answer was right there, like an annoying fly that won’t get the clue when you swat at it, because LIFE has happened.

First time feeding himself. April 2014

First time feeding himself. April 2014

Since then, he’s learned to walk, to feed himself, to drink from a cup, use a fork and climb the stairs. He’s learned where his eyes, ears, mouth, nose, tummy and toes are. He’s learned how to make animal sounds, and find his socks and shoes. He’s learned how to sign for mom, dad, eat, drink, show, bye-bye, please, all-done, milk, play, more and bath. He learned to climb on the couch and that he can see daddy through the window when he’s home from work. He knows the iPad is how you talk to grandma and grandpa, that DayCare means other kids to play with, and when someone is cooking that the kitchen is dangerous.

First real steps. October 2014

First real steps. October 2014

He’s massive now (compared to that tiny ten pound bundle we brought home), he’s sooooooooo smart, and he’s growing so fast. Everyone said he would, but when you stop for a moment to really think about it, it is alarming. Eight months ago he learned to stand, now he runs and climbs. EIGHT. That’s less than a full-term pregnancy, a school year, only two and a half seasons.

First time going up the stairs by himself. November 2014

First time going up the stairs by himself. November 2014

As parents we’re so exhausted and overwhelmed all the time that though we celebrate when an accomplishment is made, by the next day it’s old hat. One days he can’t, the next day he can. Simple as that.

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Waiting for Daddy. January 2014

But it’s not. I feel like Moira from “Hook” with Robin Williams is standing there saying:

Your children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? Soon Jack may not even want you to come to his games. We have a few special years with our children, when they’re the ones that want us around. After that you’re going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It’s so fast Peter. It’s a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.

BAM! Right in the feelers. I work at home, go to school virtually, raise Little Man and pretend to be a house wife (though the last gets neglected more often than not). So many days I’ve just wanted him to keep sleeping, to zone out on the TV, to play without calling out for me just to get a break. Then he did. It was a relief…and yet heartbreaking. He was fine without me.

He’s growing up so fast. I’m very blessed to be home with him, I know that…and even with the emotions, the fatigue, the dirty house, and feeling overwhelmed I thank god every day I’m not missing it.

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Wrestling alligators…

Okay, yes this blog is still about my adventure in mommy-hood…but I’m convinced my son may be half lizard. Or platypus, snake, or any other animal that can somehow slink its way out of a tight spot before you realize it’s halfway gone.

I’ve said it before… I was a preschool teacher and a nanny. I have had my fair share of changing diapers, changing clothes, washing faces, putting socks back on, putting on coats, putting miniature mittens on, and digging random objects out of little mouths.

But for the life of me, I feel like I am dealing with an octopus every single time I have any interaction with my son. My husband and I have taken to putting a basket of random objects near the changing table just to entertain my son long enough so that he doesn’t smear the poop that has exploded in his diaper on his legs, hands, back, and sometimes face. Even then sometimes we fail miserably.

It takes twice as long to get my son’s pajamas on after bath then it does for me to make dinner most nights.

Even after removing his tray when he is finished eating, somehow Damian manages to find a food that he can smear all over his face after I have washed him down.

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I’ve let him run around in just his diaper during the winter because fighting him to get his shirt back on wasn’t worth the energy. I’ve learned he will come ask for his shirt when he gets cold.

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I couldn’t figure out why my cat’s food seem to be disappearing faster than it ever has in her entire 10 years of existence, until I realized my son thought it was snacks I put down at his level.

Maybe it’s because moms are inherently tired from waking three and four times a night to answer a crying child (after going to bed two hours after everyone else), from constantly struggling between housework and work-work (and in my case schoolwork as well), feeling like the definition of insanity because daily you do the same thing over and over expecting ONE day the house to stay clean, because your obligations, duties, responsibilities, chores, and others’ needs seem unending, and that the same thing I did years ago seems nearly overwhelming now. Maybe it’s because I got legit breaks then. Maybe it’s because (once again) my experiences only prepared me the way college prepares you for life: just minuscule enough that you aren’t blind sighted but not enough to truly be “prepared”.

Then this miraculous thing happened today. My son didn’t roll while I was changing his diaper. He didn’t fight me and cry when I was trying to get him dressed, and (the biggest surprise) he let me wash him after meals. Then I realized as I was telling my husband what I did differently today, was that I talked to my son. I didn’t yell or try holding him down, I didn’t chase after him and do a pretzel hold to try getting his shirt on. I literally, in my exhaustion and exasperation, said “Baby, PLEASE let mommy change your diaper. If you let me change you, then we can go play faster.”

It struck me like a tonne of bricks. I know he understands most of what I say, and instead of forcing him to do something I asked him. I let this little human know he had a choice. Small, and minuscule as his choice was, it was still his choice. I ASKED if he would let me help him. He chose to let me. We so often get in the parent mode of “I’m right, you’re wrong” without meaning to be condescending, that we are. We forget that if someone forced us day in and day out to do something, it would make us angry too. I’m not saying that tomorrow he won’t go back to rolling like a ‘gator who just caught his lunch…but for today his choice was to let me help. So today, life was a little more peaceful.