Transition

We’re walking, the four of us, along a trail through reservation land on Labor Day weekend when I start to cry. It’s mid-morning, sunny, and warm. A beautiful day. Still, there’s a flutter in my chest like an alarm going off.

I choke out the words to my husband, “I’m really anxious.”

The kids run ahead, distracted by the mud and the lily pads, while my husband tries to comfort me. There’s little he can do, though. It’s the end of the summer, the brief time of year that nurtures an environment of constant motion, that breeds the desire to fill each day to the brim.

For two months, the long days demanded stamina, flexibility, and alacrity. The new season will require more order, a calmer impetus. By inclination I sense this shift.

It feels good to cry.

#

Camp is over. Parents infiltrate the campus, directed to admire everything their children’s attention yielded throughout the summer. I take Mom to see the blue prints to my dream house, a class I chose based on my thirteen-year-old vision of my adult self as an architect. I enjoyed the class but forget to point out the unique features of my three-floor mansion.

Instead, I roll the sheets into a tight tube, and we’re out the door.

My gymnastics routine is scheduled for later, leaving plenty of time to wander about and look at other campers’ projects and watch performances.

It’s an unusual day, one lacking the regular camp agenda, and I have trouble deciding where to go next. My thoughts blur into the excitement around me, people being pulled in every direction. When Mom asks what’s wrong, I don’t have an answer.

“It’s okay to be off,” she says, and I nod.

#

Our parents are busy inside the cottage stripping beds, turning off the plumbing, and emptying the kitchen cabinets. We’re too young to really help, so my sister and I amuse each other by tossing rocks into the lake and listening to them plunk, a sound we can hear now that most of the motor boats are docked.

I consider changing back into my bathing suit even though the towels are already packed away. I’ve spent most of the summer in the water swimming, boating, and catching frogs. It seems wrong to neglect it on such a nice day.

“Time to go, girls,” Dad says. “Into the car.”

When we return to this cabin in the Berkshires, my favorite place in the world, almost a year will have passed. The house will reek of moth balls and cloves, deterrents to unwanted winter guests. It takes the whole summer for the odor to fade and even then, I wonder if our noses have just adjusted to the smell.

It’s part of the fun to give up certain comforts, like television and privacy, while living here on the weekends. The trade-offs are homemade blueberry pies and endless, lazy days in the sun.

As we drive down the rocky dirt road, no one talks. The farther away we get, the gloomier I become. On the main road, I think I’ve forgotten something, but realize there’s nothing left, just a still lake and an empty cottage.

#

My son finds a stick and throws it into the pond just like his older sister. They are engrossed in this activity, oblivious to their parents’ conversation. In a couple days, school will start. Kindergarten for her, preschool for him. New beginnings, new experiences to navigate. They may know this change is upon them, but I already feel it.

I’m excited and sad, but mostly alert to the emotional complexities of change. I’ve gone through this transition many times before. It doesn’t get easier, but that’s okay.

After I shed a few more tears, I tell my children it’s time to keep going and the four of us proceed down the path soaked in the late-summer sun.

K M Becket
Becket, MA 10/2013

Breakdown

Coffee. That’s all I wanted. Well, coffee and some relief.

It had been a busy couple of weeks: Halloween, my son’s birthday, a half marathon, and a Friendsgiving held at my house. To top everything off, I had been sick the prior week with a head cold that showed no sign of clearing up anytime soon and Husband had left for a business trip on Sunday.

It was now Wednesday. The demanding schedule of making lunches, dropping kids at school, going to work, picking kids up, making dinner and putting kids to bed was taking its toll.

I had been allowing myself a simple treat each morning, a grande hot coffee from Starbucks before heading off to work. As such, my pre-loaded cash account, conveniently tracked on an app on my phone, was below the needed $2.41.

coffeeI parked across the street (I try to avoid the cluster that is the Starbucks parking lot at all costs) and headed over, attempting to reload my account on the way. I stopped short on the sidewalk when I received notification that the app was experiencing a system error. I stood there, furiously punching away at my phone with my finger. System error be damned, I was going to add money to my card and acquire that cup of coffee.

The spinning circle signifying that my phone was “thinking” drew dark clouds in my already stuffy head. A storm was brewing, and it was not going to end well. My options were to go back to my car and either grab my purse and repeat the trip with a good old-fashioned credit card, or bag the effort altogether.

Little did I know, as I climbed into the driver’s seat, that there was a third option. Call Husband and break down in tears.

I had reached my tipping point.

Over the phone, I tried to articulate the severity of what just occurred, cursing phones, apps, Starbucks, everything.

“I just want a f*cking cup of coffee!”

More than that though, I needed to cry. I needed to yell. I needed to let someone know I was having a tough week.

It’s easy to bottle up stress, especially when you’re trying to hold everything together and keep things in perspective. I knew I was going to get through the week. I knew my cold would eventually disappear and Husband would reappear. My life was still good. My house hadn’t been torn up by a hurricane. I hadn’t been groped by a politician or Hollywood VIP. I could afford to spend $2.41 on a cup of coffee even if it wasn’t in the cards that day.

But, I was also rightfully tired and aching for a small indulgence.

After my outburst, I felt better. I was still annoyed my morning would be caffeine-free and I was losing my voice for the fourth day in a row, but I was okay. The breakdown was my low point and now I had no other direction to go in but up.

Sibling Wars

It seems my children have reached a milestone in their siblinghood. They are now constantly in each other’s faces. They butt heads. They engage in physical altercations. They invade each other’s personal space. It’s a wonder to behold.

Just this morning my husband was out of the house for about an hour or so. In that time, my children managed to bicker, hit, and otherwise show their distaste for each other over the smallest of conflicts. I can’t even recall most of what the disagreements were about, only that they were continuous, loud, and, well, childish.

One was most certainly about a baby doll my daughter, the oldest, received as a gift when she was maybe two years old. Until a few weeks ago, this doll was in a bin among other semi-neglected toys. My son recently gave her new purpose by requesting her presence every time he hurts himself.

“Baby, baby,” he’ll cry and then tuck her under his arm until he feels better.

It’s adorable to everyone but my daughter, who has a newfound concern over this doll she never even cared enough about to name.

She’s right when she declares the doll hers, but it’s clear she’s only interested because her brother is interested. This morning she tried to pull the baby away from my son and you can guess how that went.

Since this is a new stage, my children haven’t yet learned how to self-mediate. What this translates to is, “Mommy, Brother/Sister just *insert tattle-worthy event here*” on repeat. It’s mentally exhausting.

My first reaction when this all started was to immediately go out and buy a second of every object in our house. We must now have two identical everythings. My children quickly rendered this idea futile by showing me that just because each of them has one of something, doesn’t mean they don’t want both, or even just the other and not the one they have.

Many parents can speak to this phenomenon. Grab two orange plates from the cabinet on which to serve dinner and a child will quickly label one as hers. The other will respond by saying, no, he wants that one and soon, a full-fledged war has broken out. It’s like offering peace under two equal arrangements and having both sides battle to the death over which side gets what type of peace.

siblings3The silver lining to all this is that they’re butting heads because they’re interacting with each other and playing more. Sometimes they get along great and when that happens, Mommy gets a nice little mental break. It recharges me enough to survive until the next battle, a battle where undoubtedly reason is checked at the door.

Soon they’ll learn it’s more fun and beneficial to compromise and let small disagreements fall by the wayside. Because a diplomatic house is a happy house. Because the next stage is unconditional love and mutual respect. Right?

Mommy Milestone

I wasn’t going to write a Mother’s Day blog post, but I’m reaching a mommy milestone this weekend too coincidental to ignore. This weekend comprised some of the final days of nursing my son. And since our family is complete, my last few days of nursing ever.

It marks the end of me physically providing for my offspring, at least in the most literal sense. No more pregnancies. No more breastfeeding.

To say this is an emotional time is an understatement, but motherhood is an emotional experience. Often milestones go unnoticed, because we’ve already moved on to the new, ever-changing demands of our children. It’s only in hindsight we reflect and realize how sad or grateful (or both) we are that a stage has passed. Even seemingly happy milestones are tough because they’re shrouded in finality.

It’s fantastic that my daughter can pee in a toilet, dress herself, and explain what she wants to eat, but this also means she no longer has a baby’s bum, will let me pick out her outfit, or eat whatever I put in front of her.

Milestones are the emotional catch-22’s of parenting. And there are so many of them. This just happens to be a big one (for me, anyway) and the last time I’ll reach it. Nursing, on occasion, has been demanding, tiring, constant, and inconvenient, but also a blessing and a privilege.

My son hasn’t been an infant for a while now, but nursing him before bed was one way to hold on to his baby-ness, a period of his life that is quickly slipping through my fingers. In fact, this morning, on Mother’s Day, he learned to say the word “no.” I forget what question was asked of him, but instead of rapidly shaking his head – his norm – he most definitely, decisively, and simply told me no.

mommy aidan crop
My baby.

The rest of the day was filled with “no.” No, he did not want help going down the stairs. No, the hood of his raincoat was to remain down. No, he could pick out which bike he wanted by himself.

He’s learning to communicate more effectively, which will come in handy in so many situations, but part of me wants him to do the head-shaking thing forever. Just like part of me will miss being there for him in one of the most motherly ways possible.

Am I thankful to have successfully breastfed two healthy babies? Of course.

Do I look forward to keeping a bra on for an entire day? Absolutely.

Will my son and I find new ways to bond? Yes.

Did I cry when he fell asleep in my arms tonight? No comment.

So much goes into being a mother, not the least of which is juggling a little sad in with all the happy. I have many years to go before my children are totally independent (if that’s really a thing), but I’ll remember this Mother’s Day as being sort of bittersweet.

Tomorrow I’ll move on and allow myself to be absorbed by whatever my children require of me. I may even start the task of teaching my son another very important word. “Yes.”

 

Read This, Your Belly Will Thank You

Of all the tales/lies/arguments/threats parents tell their children to get them to do something, very few seem to work. Some go right over their heads or, worse yet, backfire. Take for example, the battle of getting a toddler out the door in a timely manner.

After threatening to leave without him if he doesn’t put his shoes on this instant, the kid could simply state, “Okay, see you later.” And of course, as much as you want to, you can’t leave a toddler unattended for too long before he does some irreversible damage. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will.

Rarely does your point get across, or your goal met. More often, the intended purpose of the tale/lie/argument/threat is misunderstood. If you sense a story coming, you’re right.

In an attempt to get our daughter to eat healthy, Husband and I have taken to describing what her stomach is saying when she eats certain foods. If a piece of broccoli happens to make it into her mouth and down her throat, Husband and I will rejoice and make a comment such as, “Do you know what your stomach is saying right now?” (Daughter shakes head.) “It’s saying, ‘Oh, thank you! This is going to let you run fast and ride your bike!’

Daughter looks at us wide-eyed, not sure how to respond.

We keep going, because, hey, what do we have to lose? Let’s drive the point home.

“Your belly is so excited to share this food with the rest of your body. You should take another bite and make your tummy happy.”

We’ve done this on a number of occasions. Every time she eats a protein that isn’t a card deck-sized piece of cheese, we explain to her that her tummy is appreciative. Ecstatic even.

Three tiny bites of a hamburger in conjunction with sixteen French fries: “Your belly is saying ‘Mmm, thank you for this burger!’”

TM6
Husband and Daughter filling their tummies.

One lame slice of turkey hidden in the middle of a grilled cheese: “Yay!’ says your tummy. It’s going to use that to make your muscles stronger.”

This seemed to work (kind of) until we rewarded her one day with dessert and she said, “My belly thanks me for this cookie.”

Turns out Daughter’s stomach doesn’t discriminate food groups. We’ve kept up the charade, though. Somewhere along the line, Husband’s stomach and my stomach started relaying messages, too.

“I just ate these Brussel sprouts and my belly is excited!”

Yes, these words actually left my mouth in a serious manner. Yes, I was sober.

Anyway, this method started to break down when Daughter’s stomach started telling her non-food-related information. After going on an excursion with my father-in-law, he asks why Daughter mentioned her belly didn’t want her to ride her bike anymore.

Sometimes her belly doesn’t want her to go to school, or it lets her know she can play outside a little longer even though it’s getting dark. And wouldn’t you know, Daughter’s belly doesn’t think she needs to take a bath. Ever.

This isn’t our first parenting failure and it won’t be our last. And until Daughter tells me her stomach wants her to rob a bank, I’m not going to dwell on it. Instead, I’m going to crack a beer. My belly will thank me.

The Tall Order of Breakfast

Here’s how it goes. The instructions from my four-year-old on how to prepare her breakfast.

Mommy: Do you want cereal, oatmeal, or an English muffin?

Daughter: English muffin.

Sounds simple enough. But no, no it’s not. Daughter tells me she wants it in threes. Threes?

Mommy: What? Like, cut into threes?

Daughter: Yes, and I want cream and peanut butter.

Cream. That’s short for cream cheese. Somehow in her crazy realm of developing language, the name was shortened. It’s the opposite of our Saturday ritual: pancake waffles. They’re really just waffles. Why the word pancake was added, I’m not sure.

Mommy: Okay, so half peanut butter, half cream, and cut into threes.

Daughter nods. I pull out the toaster and insert the muffin. I use the bagel setting, because I’m fancy like that. The bread just toasts better. Try it at home. You’ll see.

Daughter: Mommy. I said I wanted an English muffin.

Forgive me for not having the intuition to sense you wanted this particular breakfast on this particular day so I could rush downstairs first thing this morning to start preparing it. I would have set my alarm three minutes before the time I thought you’d get up, even though you wake up anytime between 6 and 7 am each day. My bad.

Mommy: Did you hear the toaster pop?

*Pop*

Mommy: There it is!

Daughter: In a star. Peanut butter, cream, peanut butter, cream.

This is my fault. Once, after I cut her muffin into fours like a reasonable person, I positioned the sections on her plate so that the unoccupied middle of the plate looked like a star. It was kind of pretty, actually.

Now I have to do this. Every. Single. Time.

Mommy: Okay. Half peanut butter, half cream, cut into threes and in a star. Got it.

My masterpiece is finished and placed in front of my daughter on the table. Thankfully, she eats it and she eats it in silence.

Now it’s time to make everyone’s lunches.

breakfast
Boom. Queen of Breakfast.

Diary of a Tired Mommy

Each morning my watch/phone tells me I made my “sleep goal.” This means I got eight hours of sleep. Theoretically I should feel rested, but that’s not the case. Ever.

“So what’s the deal, Kim?” you might ask. withings-crop

Open the app and scroll down a bit and there’s the answer. Eight hours of actual sleep are spread across ten hours in bed. Two hours are sucked up by wakefulness. The culprit? A reliant one-year-old whom Husband and I have failed to sleep train. Sleep training: insert cringe emoji.

Now we’re desperately trying to remedy a very ugly situation. It involves a barely-used crib, a twin mattress outfitted with a railing (for Baby), an air mattress (for Mommy), and an unsettling suspicion nothing’s going to change anytime soon.

Here’s a typical night.

7:00: Baby is placed in crib awake, but drowsy.

7:00-8:00: A multitude of shenanigans leading up to Daughter’s bedtime.

8:00-9:00: FREEDOM

9:00: Mommy decides to call it quits regardless of the number of items on To Do list.

9:30: Comfy cozy in bed; mind beginning to blur; small sense of hope tonight will be “the night.”

9:35: Baby wakes and begins screaming (note the distinction between crying and screaming).

9:45: After half-assed (one-tenth-assed, even) attempt to calm Baby without removing from crib, bring Baby onto twin mattress where he will sleep for remainder of night.

10:00: Fall sleep.

12:00: Baby head-butts Mommy and starts to whimper. Begin frantic head-rubbing and shushing. Once Baby has drifted off again, very carefully climb off bed and onto air mattress. Blankets are cold. Curse myself and this situation.

Not-too-long-after: Baby realizes I am gone and makes a big stink. Jump from air mattress to bed. Fall asleep.

Sometime later: Wake up to pee. Return to air mattress. Blankets are cold. Curse myself and this situation.

Still the middle of the night: Baby rolls over/has bad dream/somehow senses lack of Mommy’s body heat. Starts to cry. Climb back into bed.

4:00-ish: Wake up because who the heck knows. Move to air mattress. Sheets are cold.

6:00-ish: Baby wakes up. Instead of crying, Baby crawls off bed and crawls onto air mattress and nestles into Mommy. Mommy thinks this is the cutest thing in the world. Falls back asleep.

7:00: Mommy has overslept and has to help get two kids ready for pre-school by 7:30. Curse myself and this situation.

sleep2

For someone who adores a good night sleep, this is not ideal. Clearly, my body/mind has adjusted, although occasionally I’ll experience a lack of judgment. This Monday, for example, I spent $60 on loose-leaf tea. Yes, you read that right. I also zone out at times much more frequently than I used to. Don’t worry, I always snap back.

There’s a saying “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Well, I’d like to say my goal is to sleep through the night, but I’m no fool. Instead, how about bringing the number of times I wake up from ten down to, say, two? And I plan on accomplishing this before Baby becomes Pre-Teen. No one likes to share a bed with their mom past nine, right?