Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Mom Tribe

It’s that knowing glance, the one from the mother across the aisle who sees you desperately trying to keep your cool as the toddler in your cart melts down in the middle of Target, yelling mean words, kicking and screaming. Just when you feel like everyone is judging you, you get that look, the one that says, “Man, have I been there before.”
It’s the stranger who holds the door as you head into the post office, pushing a stroller with one hand, package looped under your other arm. In your hardest moments, when you’re just trying to figure out how to accomplish everything on the to-do list with children in tow, those small gestures from strangers can be the difference between accomplishment and failure.
            The fact of the matter is we can’t do this alone. We may feel like we’re going at it solo, but mothers are part of a tribe, The Mom Tribe. Whether it’s the best friend you can joke about running away with, or the checker at the grocery store who calms your children with stickers while you fumble for your credit card, you’re anything but alone.
            Most of the time a favorite toy or a well-timed snack helps my son and I make it through the day’s errands. Sometimes though, it’s not enough. My son is in a mood and he loses his cool at the mall and I’m positive the people around me are contemplating calling CPS because I’m clearly doing something wrong here. But it’s those little moments where nearby moms say a gentle word, often in passing, that I remember, I’m not alone. We’re all going through this together. We distract each other’s crying babies, we pick up fallen toddlers, and we offer a kind “I’ve been there” as we walk by the overtired preschooler and his frazzled mother.
            These interactions, these moments, they’re important. Feeling like you’re not screwing this all up is sometimes the only reminder needed to make it through hard days. And whether she knows it or not, the grandmother who gushes over my tiny human while I try to select the right cereal at Safeway, is my savior.
            We may never exchange numbers, or even names, but we’ve got each other’s backs. The kindness of fellow mothers reminds me not only to appreciate the women who save my day without knowing it, but also to do the same for the ones I see in need. In those overwhelming moments, my tribe lets me know, we’ve got this, often without saying a word.

Mommin’ Ain’t Easy

Some days are hard. Correction: most days are hard. I feel constantly overwhelmed by taking care of both myself and a second human on a daily basis, making sure all of his needs are met, keeping him happy, entertained, and enriched; building a human being that will become someone I’d like to know as an adult. It’s a lor. I try to remind myself “everyone does this.” It seems crazy; somewhere out there there is a 16-year-old mom with the same duties as me, crushing it. I should feel comforted by that fact, but it doesn’t make the day-to-day any easier.
And then there are those other days, these rare glimpses into what the future (hopefully) looks like, where my son is courteous, behaved, and loving. Where he says please and thank you all the time, asks politely for food at a restaurant that he then sits down and eats without complaint. Days where we go out for a meal and he stays in the booth the entire time, fidgeting only slightly but not bounding out of his seat to run away.
I can never figure these days out; they honestly almost don’t even feel real because they are so different from our average day, the ones where I feel that I struggle to keep my temper in check while my son constantly pushes my buttons, testing his boundaries.
I’m not sure if he’s too tired to be the psycho he normally is, if I’m in a particularly good mood that seems to be clouding his behavior in some magical way, or if this is a glimpse into my future; into what it looks like to have a child and not a toddler anymore. The days when all of that reasoning and disciplining you’ve been doing finally feels like it will pay off—after months of being fairly certain timeouts were all completed in vain.
I know there will be future struggles, ones much more mentally trying than those of today, where I have to worry about bad influences and peer pressure and a world so much scarier than that of 3-year-olds. But today, I’m taking the win. I’m cherishing this good day to as a memory to call upon during all the hard times that lay ahead. To the moments this three-year-old starts acting like a three year old again. We have to take these wins when we can, moms. And today, I’m taking mine, and giving myself a little credit, too—in the form of a bowl of ice cream touted as a “good behavior” gift for my son.

My Baby, the Fashionista

Dressing babies is fun. They don’t care what you put them in, it’s adorable when they look ridiculous, and you can change their outfit as many times each day as you please (out of necessity or just because) with very few complaints. Infant fashion shows are a rite of passage for new moms. Dressing toddlers is the opposite of fun.
            Every child between the ages of two and five would rather be naked than wear clothes. Getting my son to wear any clothes proves difficult. Luckily, he is old enough to understand that he can’t leave the house without clothes on (although he did once escape through the garage and run down the sidewalk buck naked screaming and giggling—ah, to be free) but when we’re home, I’m lucky if he’ll keep his underwear on.
            When it comes to picking out the actual clothes, that’s another problem. I recently bought him two pairs of these adorable, uber-trendy comfy skinny harem pants, with the tight legs and drop crouch. They are all the rage on the online mama shops, and since they were made of sweatpants material, I thought he would be thrilled.
            Between the day I ordered them and the day they were delivered, my son had given up sweatpants. Every time I tried to put the adorable harem pants on him, he screamed in protest, “NOT THOOOOOOSE ONES!!!!”
            It took some prodding, but I did get him to explain to me what exactly the problem with sweatpants is. Turns out, he “needs pockets to put his monies in.”
            He’s started collecting things: pennies he finds on the ground, quarters he convinces his grandparents to give him, small rocks or pieces of trash I don’t know about until they jam up my washing machine…
I should point out that his sweatpants have pockets. The harem ones actually have two. But his “collections” require more than that.
            If I’ve learned anything, it’s that parenting a toddler is about compromise. And compromising with a human who doesn’t have any idea what compromise means usually feels like negotiating with terrorists. Long story short, I found him some FIVE POCKET cargo pants. And to appease myself, they aren’t the baggy Abercrombie-style ones that were “all the rage” in high school Instead they have skinny legs, drawstring tops, sweatpants cuffs, and come in chic fall colors.
I don’t think my son actually cares at all what his pants look like; he only cares how many pockets they have. Just tall enough to see over the edge of his top dresser drawer where his pants are kept, he picks out his own pair each morning—based solely on how many pockets they have. My challenge is then to find a shirt to match.
The five-pocket skinnies have become his favorite. He owns them in three colors.

Little Green Lie

I’m going to preface this story by saying I’m lucky; since birth my three-and-a-half-year-old has been a (mostly) healthy eater. Some nights he refuses to eat anything but hot dogs and French fries, but for the most part getting him to eat green vegetables and fresh fruit isn’t a battle.
            However, his generally good eating habits make those days he refuses anything resembling real food more difficult. Like most mothers, I feel an intense need to get at least some nutritious calories into his body before he eats ice cream for dessert. Sometimes those desperate moments lead us to do things we aren’t proud of. For me, it led me to lie.
            Little fibs are part of parenthood and I thought this one was no harm, no foul. With a hunk of avocado on his plate that he poked at and exclaimed he did not like before even attempting a taste (this has to be the most annoying toddler habit, right?), he insisted he was done with dinner. So I got creative.
            That’s not avocado, that’s Hulk poop, I told him. I mean really, how else do you appeal to a three-and-a-half-year-old boy? And to my surprise, he bought my little white lie, complete with the fact that he would grow super strong like the hulk when he ate it. Without hesitation he got wide-eyed and shoved the entire hunk into his mouth and swallowed. No grotesque noises, no protesting. I thought I had won this battle.
            Then, without skipping a beat, he hopped down from his place at the dinner table and ran full speed ahead into the wall, fist out, his entire body colliding with the wall, as a green streak appeared against the textured cream paint (which was not easy to clean by the way.) “Ow! Ow! Ow!” he yelled as he jumped up and down holding his fist. “Why didn’t I punch through the wall? I ate the Hulk poop!”
            It was a valid question, and one I hadn’t yet considered an answer to. I mean, I really didn’t anticipate him trying to break through solid wood and plaster.
            “Oh, well, you have to eat it everyday for a really long time before you get as strong as Hulk.”
            “Oh.” He sounded a little dejected but he also seemed okay. Although, he must have decided it wasn’t worth the commitment because he hasn’t eaten avocado since. And I learned a valuable lesson…
            Not all little white lies are harmless.



I love dinosaurs, and I’ve been determined to pass that love of dinosaurs onto my son since the day he was born. His nursery decorated in dinosaurs, books about dinosaurs lining his shelves, even a little Dinosaur Train on TV now and again.
            It turns out it doesn’t take much to get little boys hooked on dinosaurs, and it wasn’t long before my son was talking about them gleefully. In his cute little voice he would mispronounce it, “disanore.” Everyone just melted when he said it that way.
            Fast-forward approximately two years to a routine drive to preschool and my whole world changed. Sitting there quietly for a few moments, he suddenly blurted out of nowhere: “Mom! Guess what? I can say DI-NO-SAUR.”
            He pronounced it perfectly. I whipped around and exclaimed, “What?!” If I had been driving, I might have crashed, but luckily his dad was along for the ride that morning.
            “DINOSAUR! DINOSAUR! DINOSAUR!” He chanted. “I’m a big boy now cause I can say dinosaur. Disanore is what babies say.”
            I damn near broke down into tears right there on the way to preschool. I pestered him about who had taught him how to say it that way, I contemplated (briefly) telling him whoever corrected him was wrong and it really is pronounced disanore. But he knew—the secret was out, and I suddenly saw my little kid being dropped off on his first day of college, asking me not to get out of the car as he walked to his dorm room for the first time.
            It sounds like a reach, I know, going from being able to correctly pronounce dinosaur to the sudden pangs of empty nesters syndrome, but it’s all just happening too fast. And to be honest, I was never going to teach him how to pronounce dinosaur correctly.
            And since I had such an intense reaction to his pronouncement, my son now makes it a point to remind me of his genius every so often. Days go by without a mention of dinosaurs and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, he’ll say, “Mom. I can say dinosaur cause I’m big now. Does that make you sad?”
            Yes, it does, kid. Yes it does.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Neverending Questions

The other day when I was picking my son up from preschool, one of his teachers stopped me. “I have to tell you something your son did today” she said. My heart dropped. I felt like I’d been sent to the principal’s office.

Then she told me that my son was playing with blocks and when the tower started to fall, he exclaimed, “IT’S THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA!”

“How does he know that?!” she asked.

I knew that by the time I had a three year old he'd be able to talk and I imagined some (mostly one-sided) conversations we'd be able to have, the songs we'd be able to sing, but I never realized just how much a kid that young could understand. 

On a typical ride in the car we jump across subjects. Sometimes I find myself explaining why people don't eat bones. "Because we don't" will not slide. So instead I explain how our bodies aren't equipped to digest them and dive into specifics about the anatomical differences between our teeth and dog's teeth (assuming this is why he's asking). 

Other days my son pokes different parts of his face and asks, "why is this hard?" And I describe the human skeleton to him. When I use a word he doesn't know he asks me what it means, and he stops to ask thoughtful questions (Then why isn't my stomach hard? Where did my stomach bones go?) When he's satisfied, he immediately switches to a new topic. He wants to know if car accidents hurt, if running over a bird will stop it from flying, how we are affected by other drivers on the road (if that car hits that car will WE get hurt?). It's beyond any scenario I ever imagined.

I try not to say I don't know too often because I hate that answer. Let's be honest, no one—regardless of age—likes that response. So instead I pose questions back to him when I can't answer something. When he asks me how someone feels I encourage him to think how he would feel in the same situation.

"Would Luke be sad if I took his blocks?" 

"Well, would you be sad if Luke took YOUR blocks" 

"Hmmm yeah I would. Cause that's not very nice."

I have to admit though, when he asks me the name of the stranger walking down the street, where they live, and if they have kids, I do have to resort to I don't know (although even then I try to give him a little bit more... I don't know because I've never met that person). And when he asks if he can roll down the window and ask, I find myself weighing the pros and cons of the stranger danger talk.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Today as I sat at the table with my two-and-a-half-year-old, I couldn’t help but marvel at just how BIG he was. Watching him heave spoonfuls of mac ‘n’ cheese into his mouth, expertly maneuvering the spoon without even looking at it, I longed a little for the days when I had to feed him: highchair, bib, tiny plastic spoons—the whole nine yards. Today, he did not need my help to eat his lunch, and honestly, it’d been a long time since he had.
For some reason, in that moment, his eyes fixed on Curious George as he ate, he seemed so much bigger than the day before. Heck, he seemed bigger than he had at breakfast. Maybe I had finally sat down long enough to notice, or maybe it had something to do with the fact that we had taken our first preschool tour that morning.
All he ever talks about is being bigger. He wakes up from a nap, “I’m bigger, Mom!” From the backseat of my car he says matter-of-factly, “when I’m 16, I can reach the pedals.” I tell him, it’s good to be little, to stay little as long as he can, but he’s in a rush to grow up.
It seems like forever from now that he’ll truly be big enough to not need me anymore, to be able to reach those pedals, to secure true independence, but I suppose when he was an infant, lounging in my arms most of the day, I thought having a toddler was a long ways off, too. Being bigger is all he wants to think about, and I can hardly bear the thought of it.
We’ve left behind everything “baby,” about him. Every time I call him baby, he stands tall and corrects me, “Mom, I’m not a baby. I’m a big boy!” And he’s right. I simultaneously fight and embrace him growing him. We’ve left behind the binkies, the bottles, the crib, and the high chair. We’re almost done with the diapers. And I’ve marveled in every milestone. Clapped for him, gave rambunctious high fives, celebrated his every success right there with him, a wide grin pulling across his face as he cheers and says, “I’m big!”
After I tuck him into bed, savoring the song he still asks for and the stories I still read to him, I retreat with a simple, “goodnight, I love you.” He returns the sentiment, and I let go a sigh of relief that the day is over, before pressing my fingers to my eyes to staunch the tears. Because when he wakes up, I know one thing is true: he’ll be bigger.

-- N.