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.

Baby/Toddler Behaviors Adults Should Try

I’m not easily fazed by disgusting things my children say or do. After being spit up, thrown up, and pooped on, I can deal with bodily fluids without blinking an eye. My face has been farted in, my shoulders have been bit, and my nose has been picked by a finger that wasn’t mine. I’ve been shown the contents of my daughter’s mouth more times than I care to count and my son prefers my clothes to a Kleenex every time he has a cold.

It’s not that adults are any less disgusting. In fact, we probably have more unpleasant ailments and conditions than we’d like to admit. The difference is we deal with them in private. Suppose, however, we acted as children do, revealing our opinion and acting on our desires for all to see and enjoy.

Here are some comical examples.

  1. Stick your finger in someone’s ear while they’re talking to you.

I get it, the human body is interesting. So many moving parts, crevices and sounds. Just like the nose, the ear has a dark entrance, full of mystery. Who wouldn’t want to explore it? Well, most, if not all, adults. So, imagine someone’s reaction if you just put a cork in their hearing device mid-conversation.

  1. Feed an acquaintance your regurgitated cracker.

I could go on and on about food-related disgustingness. The examples are endless. One common behavior, however, is my son sticking way too much in his mouth at once, spitting some out, and holding a handful of mush up to my face. Take some, he’s indicating likes it’s the most normal thing in the world.

Apparently, my expression isn’t enough to convince him I won’t be sharing his snack.

cheese feeding
Force Feeding

He’ll reach his hand closer. “No thank you,” I’ll finally say and he’ll proceed to spread the pulpy cracker all over his high chair tray.

How amusing to be out at a restaurant and sample something you don’t like. Instead of discreetly wincing and swallowing the food, spit it into your hand, and offer it to another member of your party. “You take it. I don’t like this.”

  1. Completely ignore the person asking you something.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating components of parenthood is being blatantly ignored. “Maddie, do you have your shoes on?” “Maddie, put your shoes on please.” “Time to put your shoes on, Maddie.” “Hello, daughter? Shoes. Now.” “Madison Grace Crow, this is the last time I’m going to ask you.” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Next time your boss asks you to do something, just ignore her. Maybe she’ll finally get fed up and leave you alone. Or maybe you’ll be fired.

  1. Wear whatever you damn-well please.
clothes3
Fashionista

I love when my daughter picks out her outfit. The ensemble usually has a few extra pieces, but that’s what makes them great. She often commits fashion faux pas, like mixing patterns or wearing too many colors. But does she care? Of course not.

I wonder how much time I’ve spent staring into my closet trying to put together an outfit. If I could just grab random articles of clothing and be done with it, I’d have more time to blog.

  1. Fall asleep wherever whenever.

Every adult’s dream, right? You’re tired, take a nap. Or, flip the f out and then take a nap. That’s even better. Go out with a bang.

sleep6
Zzz

I especially love when either of my kids is clearly tired, but denies it to the bitter end when he/she slumps over and falls quite suddenly into Dreamland. Oh, the drama that precedes an overdue nap is unparalleled.

Do you even know what you would say if you could just lash out and yell nonsense before curling up and passing out? Worth investigating.

So, even if these aren’t realistic behaviors to try, it’s still kind of fun to entertain them.

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.

Have You Taken These Parenting Shortcuts?

Time is limited. Sanity, even more so. That’s why I don’t feel guilty having taken these (hopefully common) parenting shortcuts.

  1. Skipped the shower.

    I love a good shower as much as the next guy…once I’m in the shower. I could stand under a hot stream of water for tens of minutes before beginning an actual cleansing routine. Sometimes I just don’t make it into the shower.

    There are nights when bathing isn’t even on my radar. To be fair, I have an office job and average about 2,000 steps on the days I work. There’s also the season to take into consideration. On a winter night when I haven’t moved all day, I’ll gladly forego a shower in favor of some other form of “me” time.

  2. Not changed a diaper.

    diaper
    source: http://www.whattoexpect.com

    Here’s the scenario: I’ve finally gotten both kids ready for preschool/daycare. We’re heading for the door. This is the time my son decides to take a dump. I can smell it. When I do a quick check though, it’s a tiny little thing, a poop nugget, if you will. Instead of removing shoes, pants, and diaper, I pick up the poop with my fingers and walk it to the toilet.

    In the back of my mind, this is okay, because even if the diaper is a little soiled, daycare changes diapers at regular intervals (barring any noticeable BMs). By 9:00 my baby’s bum will be outfitted in a clean, new nappy. Hey, it’s built into the tuition.

  3. Re-gifted a present.

    I do feel slightly guilty about this one. Usually, I become a bit giddy when I find a really good gift for someone. There’s a creativity component to gift-giving that brings me joy. Re-gifting is just too good an opportunity sometimes.

    When my son was born, my daughter received just as many gifts as he, if not more. I appreciated the sentiment, and these gifts made my daughter happy during a time of uncertainty for her. But we only need so many puzzles and activity books. We even have a few duplicate toys.

    Shelf space is limited. My capacity to pick up sh*t all the time is decreasing. Occasionally, I’ll leave a gift in its packaging and bring it to the random-kid-from-preschool’s birthday party my daughter has been invited to. Why not make someone else happy and me less stressed about having so much stuff around?

  4. Employed child labor.

    ma-cleanlabor
    Ah, the real reason we procreate. Just kidding. It is amazing, however, when you can get your little one(s) to do something for you when you, yourself, just don’t feel up to it.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find out both my children like to clean. More so my daughter, but my son has a ball moving a Swiffer back and forth over the same square foot bit of floor. Don’t worry, he’ll get there. Or else (just kidding again).

    So, when I skeptically ask, “Do you feel like cleaning the coffee table?” and my daughter enthusiastically responds, “Yes!” I seize the opportunity. Husband and I also have no problem having our daughter grab us cans from the beer fridge. It was a proud moment for Husband when he requested a Heady Topper and she brought one right to him. #parentinggoals

  5. Cut short/improvised/or otherwise botched story time.

    peter-rabbit-2
    Some stories just suck. They suck even more when it’s the eighth night in a row you’re reading them. It used to be easier to skip pages or even lines, but now my daughter picks up on even the slightest variation to the story.

    “No, all it needed was SOME frosting,” she’ll point out when Husband or I have left out a word. Tough crowd.

    Other stories are odd, or too long. I make variations, or leave out entire sections. I try to still make sense, but depending on my daughter’s level of wakefulness, sometimes I don’t need to.

Parenting is a tough and often thankless job. The road to developing happy, well-adjusted children is a long one. Sometimes a little shortcut can go a long way.

Fort

I just finished Room by Emma Donoghue, which is narrated by a five-year-old boy beginning on his fifth birthday. The premise is grim, but I’m not here to write a book review.

It got me thinking about how my daughter, who turns four tomorrow, perceives the world. Further, we’re snowed in today and, while we’re not confined to a single room, available activities are somewhat limited.

Here goes. A (half) day in the life of Madison:

Mom put the railing back up, because Dad said I fell out of bed the other night. This means I have to climb all the way to the end to get out. I make a big boom when I land on the floor.

Dad’s awake on his small computer, but I can come up on bed and watch a Sofia. Blankie first, then I use my muscles to climb. It’s the episode when Clover is freezed in ice. That would be cold. No thank you.

I try Rice Krispies for the first time for breakfast, because we’re making treats to bring to school tomorrow. It’s my birthday. I’m going to be four. Then I’ll turn five next week and then I’ll go to Kindergarten. Everyone is going to sing.

I don’t like the Rice Krispies, but I like listening to them. “Snap, Crackle, Pop,” says Dad. I want Cheerios with milk and tell Dad I want an adult spoon.

fortThe box for my new car seat is my new fort. I ask Mom to help me inside, but then I do it all by myself. Time to put stuff in. “Look, mama,” I say. She looks in and tells me I have quite the set up. “Do you want to tape the flap up so it doesn’t keep falling down?” she asks. I nod. I like using tape.

Time to get dressed. Mom and Dad say I can’t do anything else until I brush my teeth and put clothes on. I put on the shirt Mom wanted me to wear the other day, but I didn’t. When I show her, she smiles and tells me I look great. I also put on my fuzzy pink pants. Vermont Gramma gave them to me.

We’re going to make cookies and Rice Krispies treats. Mom hands me the sugar and I put it on the counter. Then she hands me the flour. It’s heavy, but not too heavy for me. We also need butter. I like peeling the wrapper off. I get to pour everything in and turn on the machine. “Two clicks,” says Mom. I watch everything swirl around.

I make all the balls and put them on pans. My fingers are gooey. I ask if I can wash the dishes, but Momma says no, just fill the bowl with water. Aidan keeps trying to climb up the stool. When I move in front of him, Mom tells me to be nice. I don’t know I wasn’t being nice.

Mom’s going for a run on the machine. I play in fort right next to her. I show her my letters I just drawed. “Pretend I’m not here,” she says. “Pretend I went outside for a run.” I tell her I don’t want to pretend she’s not here. She smiles. “Those letters are perfect, honey!”

I put more in my purse. It’s heavy. There’re the shaky things, Barbie, three cars, my jump rope from Cape Gramma, and some markers. Then I put everything that’s on the floor in fort.

I jump on the trampoline. “I’m running like you,” I tell Momma.

“You’re so fast.”

I am fast.

For lunch it’s peanut butter sandwich. I make it into a Christmas tree. “Here’s the stump,” I say to Dad. “If you eat all of your sandwich, you can have some raspberries,” he says. Raspberries are yummy, but I don’t want my sandwich anymore. Mom says she’s going to eat the crust so there’s no wasting.

Now I get to watch a new movie because Dad says it’s a special day. Beauty and the Beast. Santa bringed it for Christmas. I’m going to watch from my fort. “Don’t you think you should watch it on the couch in case you want to nap?” Dad asks.

Napping’s for Aidans. I’m going to be four.