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I suck at this

I have had a blog idea in my head for like 2 weeks but just haven’t written it. Cuz I’m lazy.

Anyway, before I lose it (even more), here it is.

So a couple weeks ago, one of my friends on Babycenter was mocking a woman from another birth board (birth board = web community of moms and dads having a baby in a certain month and year, such as April 2008 or May 2010) who was touting her parenting methods down to the letter. All natural, all attachment, all perfect.

Funny thing, her baby isn’t due for 2 months.

That’s why we were mocking her.

We all think we know what kind of parent we will be, or at least what kind we hope to be. I mean, who hasn’t been at the store and seen the screaming toddler and the disheveled mom screaming/beating/bribing said child to no avail? And before I had Declan, I know I always rolled my eyes a little, thinking “God, what a brat…” Now when that happens, I’m either A) trying to avoid screaming at/beating my own child or B) smiling, nodding and offering the “Honey, I know… I know…” look at the poor woman. I swore I’d never be “that” mom, but guess what? We all are.

I swore I’d breastfeed. I didn’t. I swore I’d never stay home with my child. I am. I swore I’d never talk about my child ad nauseum to any person that would listen. Well, you are reading this, aren’t you?

So this poor woman that we were mocking online thought she had it ALL figured out. Her “signature” on the web site listed her as an “Cloth-Diapering, Extended Rear-Facing (car seat), Extended Breastfeeding, Baby Food Making, Plastic-Avoiding, Natural Child Birth Practicing” mom.

Snort.

My prediction: She will go into labor and will wait a long time before going in because she’s doing Labor Yoga or having sex or something, but when the pain is too intense and she goes to her birthing center/Navajo Tee-Pee, either she’ll need an emergency C-section because the baby is stuck or she’ll need pitocin and will demand an epi.
Once the baby is here and properly positioned in the papoose, he/she will have a bad latch (probably from the traumatic labor). She’ll try and try but after some time, the nurses will insist he gets formula. She kinda enjoys the break, so she lets them.

They get home, and they try to co-sleep in their hut, but the baby is colicky and screams all night. Eventually, baby goes to his room and crib, so mommy can sleep. The only thing that makes baby happy is a Nuk Binkie.

Mommy becomes so tired and frustrated with trying to breastfeed the baby that she starts going through the drive-thru for every meal. A friend brings over a giant Little Einstein excersaucer, full of plastic and BPA objects, and the baby LOVES it. He also loves the videos, and mommy discovers she can nap while he’s in it.

Fast forward 3 years, and the kid is decked out in Bob the Builder overalls, wearing Mickey Mouse crocs and sits in front of SpongeBob all day before playing with his Leapster and eating chicken nuggets and Kraft Mac and Cheese for dinner.

Call me a cynic, but trying to decide the kind of mother you’ll be before having kids is like trying to predict the weather 10 years in advance. It’s stupid.

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Mama vs. the world

This weekend was the first weekend in what seems like 10 months that it’s been nice and sunny here. It came just in time, as we have all been suffering from MAJOR cabin fever, so Mr. Sunshine was a very welcome guest for us.

So we did what apparently every other family in the Southeast did, and headed out to our favorite park. It’s right down the street from our house and is large and beautiful. I expected it to be crowded, and I was not wrong. In the fall, before winter cursed us with months of gray skies and muddy yards, we went two to three times a week, and were often the only family there. It was great because I didn’t have to hover over Declan like a hawk when he climbed and jumped and ran around like a maniac. I liked that our visits were virtually stress-free, with no worry about him running down another kid or vice-versa, and no awkward confrontations with parents.
It’s hard to imagine that a casual visit to the park or a play area could lead to drama, but boy, it can. I’ve been lucky to avoid any thus far, but I have been on the receiving end of some knowing glances about other parents, as if to say “I don’t know you, but I can see you’d never let YOUR kid do THAT.” I’m also lucky in that so far, my kid isn’t the playground bully, nor is he the playground target. He just runs around laughing and screaming, and stays out of everyone else’s way.

Today wasn’t nearly as relaxing.

Part of the issue was the sheer volume of people at the park. I had to create a parking space, for Pete’s sake! And another issue was the amount of older kids. During the week, obviously the park is toddler-friendly because big kids are at school. So I’m not accustomed to their bravado, their athleticism, and their language! I actually heard a little girl say to her friend “Girl, I’ve been tryin to text your butt all day!” They were, oh, 7.

And big kids are FEARLESS. These big boys were on top of the jungle gyms and jumping off, which made me feel like I was dodging cannonballs on a battlefield. My nerves were getting rankled. But I kept my cool. They weren’t being bad, they were just being boys, but I was feeling the urge to hover growing stronger.
But nothing brought out the Mama Bear more than the stupid PARENTS. UGH.

First of all, I know you can’t judge a parent (nor should you, but come on..) just based on a one-time experience. I’d hate to see what someone thought of me on the day recently when it was FREEZING outside, but Declan refused to wear his coat out of the store. They probably thought “that IDIOT woman, does she not know how COLD it is out here???” But what they didn’t know was the absolute MELTDOWN I had just experienced in the store, and that I was not going to put either of us through it again. And I knew five minutes in the cold was worth the peace!

But somethings really do speak volumes. For example, the parents smoking not just in front of their kids, which is bad enough, but ON the playground. The playground with kids falling out of the sky and toddlers darting left and right. The fact that no one got burned is a miracle. And seriously, you can’t step just OUTSIDE the play area, so you aren’t exhaling your filth all over us? THANKS.

Then there was the Coca-Cola Crew. The ones whose kids are walking around with Route 44 sodas from Sonic or the extra large sweet tea from McDonald’s. I know, I know, this could be the one day out of the year that they are allowed a coke … everything is fine in moderation … blah blah. If you saw these people, you’d know that their four food groups are Sugar, Corn Syrup, Cheetos and Pixie Sticks. But whatevs, at least their dietary habits weren’t affecting my kid, like the smokers.

Then, of course, there were the cussers. Common at any public place, there’s always some moron that has no problem complaining LOUDLY to her friends about “what an ASSHOLE” her husband is or “how sick of this SHIT” she is. Seriously, I cuss like a sailor in my home. Not in front of Declan (as much) since he can now mimic me, and I’m no prude. But COME ON. You can’t either tone it down a little or at least be quiet?

The cussers and smokers tend to overlap in one category, the “I hate my kid” group. You know the ones who scream and degrade their children every time they look at them wrong? Yea, they are so inspiring. As soon as we got there, a little girl had walked up to her daddy and was playing with his (extremely too long) necklace while he was arguing with her mom. What a family portrait. Anyway, as soon as we walked past, I heard him very sharply say “I TOLD you to get your hands OFF my chain.” Nice. She kinda wandered off with a dazed look, and I wanted to hug her.

Anyway, today was just the kind of day where I had to restrain myself from either putting Declan in a bubble or giving parenting lessons to every person I came in contact with. Or taking photos for this website (NSFW and pretty offensive, but relevant). But I realized that the best thing I could do, other than make a passive-aggressive comment near one fine lady about “moving away to get some FRESH AIR” as she breathed her Marlboro Red cloud on me, is to be the best parent I could be to Declan, in public or otherwise.

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I’m a survivor

I survived my first weekend away from Declan! Survived is putting it mildly; I actually enjoyed myself, which was way more than I expected.

This past weekend, we headed to North Carolina for our new nephew’s Baptism. As much as everyone wanted Declan to come, it would have just been way too complicated and hectic for everyone: a long road trip, staying in a hotel, going to church, etc. So we made the executive decision a few months ago that he would stay with my mom while we went.

The weeks heading up to the trip, I literally could not think or talk about leaving him without tearing up a little. I know, ridiculous. He spends the night with my mom a lot, and we always enjoy it and never feel anxious at all. I know what a great time he has with her, and vice versa, so any fear I have about being away from him is nil. But being away from him for 2 and a half days was different. I think my biggest concern was that he would not just miss us, but fear us being gone. Since I have no idea what an almost-two-year-old’s concept of time is, I think that’s a valid fear. I pictured him asking about us to my mom, or crying if he saw a picture of us or if he talked to me on the phone. My stomach would tense up and my heart would race — I told Paul he couldn’t talk about the weekend until closer to time. Like once we got back.

Then something happened. Declan was a TERROR for about, oh, 2 weeks before our trip. Awful. Whining, no napping, hitting, pushing … the whole toddler mess. And suddenly, a weekend away from diapers and whining and Elmo and Play-Doh sounded really really good. Especially when you throw in a hotel room (that I don’t have to straighten up) with a HUGE whirlpool tub, delicious home-cooked meals and no reason to get up at 7 a.m. My anxiety melted away like the snow (that keeps falling here, for pete’s sake). It reminded me of the way pregnancy prepares you for labor. Around 4 or 5 months, you know labor is inevitable, but the thought of it will send any woman into a panic attack like no other. “I have to push a baby out of WHERE? OMG, NO. No. Just. No.” But then something happens around 8 months in: Misery. Suddenly, this parasite living inside you is so big that you can’t breathe, you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, all you do is pee and ache and sweat and moan and bitch. And then you realize that in just a few weeks, it will all. be. over. Sure, it will hurt, and sure, you can’t really fathom how THAT comes out of THERE, but you really don’t care, as long as you can take a deep breath again and you can sneeze without peeing. So labor becomes a means to an end, and that makes it ok.

Of course, the week before we left, he acted much better, which could have swung the pendulum back the other way, but in a way, it was nice to know that my mom wasn’t going to be dealing with the Terror of Tennessee.

So we headed out for a wonderful weekend that was anxiety-free and full of relaxation and some much needed one-on-one time with Paul. I hadn’t considered the benefit of us spending time together alone and how nice it was to converse freely and be on our own schedule. It was very refreshing, for us both.

And of course, Declan did just fine. No tears, no wondering where Mommy is, basically no realization at all that we were gone, of course. I have a feeling a little spoiling by his BeBe went a long way.

But nothing beat the feeling of holding him in my arms on Sunday night. I felt like I was whole again, and ready to handle whatever my crazy child can throw my way.

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Mama Guilt

I am at the end of my rope. I get this way sometimes, usually about once a month (no, not THAT time of the month, people), where I just NEED A BREAK. I need to be on my schedule, not in charge of entertaining anyone, in a quiet place and to do something for me. I don’t want to sound like a martyr and I HATE when SAHMs act like one. Like the whole world would end if they didn’t do everything. The moms that list off all the things they do each day just to get sympathy/props for their miraculous work ethic. The ones that act like their husbands would probably starve the kids to death and dress them in garbage bags if left to their own devices.

You know the ones. You might be one. Think about it.

Anyway, I try really hard not to fall into that trap. Especially to Paul, because he not only works a job 40 hours a week, he does tons around here. I am admittedly quite lazy with housework, although I have gotten a tiny bit better. I try to cook most of the meals, but he does the dishes EVERY NIGHT and MORNING, he straightens up, he gives Declan a bath and puts him down every night, takes out the trash, etc. So I’m really not going to look at him and complain that I do SO MUCH around here and I just HAVE to have a break. Because when is his break??

Now granted, I do think, as lame as it sounds, that having a 25-minute commute to and from work each day counts as a little bit of a break. He would probably disagree, but I would give a lot of money to have 50 minutes alone in the car every day. I’d give a lot of money to have 50 minutes alone in the bathroom every day. Hell, 25 would do it. OK, I’d like to just pee alone every time I go. But I know that he and I value alone time, and we take it where we can get it. I just don’t get it very often.

It’s really the alone time I crave more than a “break.” Like, I don’t need a spa day once a month (I sure as hell wouldn’t complain about one, though) and I don’t need a big fancy date night or anything like that (we are pretty good about getting those, which is awesome). I just want time alone in the house to do whatever I want on my terms. Even if it’s cleaning. I want to clean NOT during nap time. Because I want to turn the music up loud and I can’t do that when Little Bit is sleeping!

I always know when it’s “time” for a break. I get edgy and irritable (well, more so than normal), my patience runs way short, and overall, I’m just a real joy to be around. So I’ll tell Paul that I’m going to be checking out, either mentally or physically, and I need him to take over and leave me alone. Which, luckily, he complies with. Today is one of those days. I knew yesterday that Break Time was imminent. He was more than happy to take the reins with Declan all morning, and now that Declan is down, I’m all dressed and ready to go to Barnes and Noble and a few other places ALONE. Heaven.

And of course, I feel guilty. I feel guilty for not doing something fun as a family today. I feel guilty that I’ve been sitting in the bedroom alone watching “Teen Mom” while my husband and son are snuggling on the couch. I feel guilty that Paul worked all week and has taken Declan all morning and will probably have him for a while this afternoon while I’m sipping coffee and thumbing through books. I feel guilty that I haven’t been very fun today. I feel guilty for not being able to be a good mom and wife all the time.

And this guilt takes away from some of this me time. So while I have the chance to be gone for hours, I know I’ll not be quite as leisurely as I could be. I know I won’t thumb through every book at B&N that piques my interest. I know when I go run my other errands, I’ll get in and out quickly, no dawdling. But I also know that once all that is over, I’ll come back fully charged and ready to be the best mom and wife I can be. And I don’t feel guilty about that.

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One of those days

Today was one of those days. The kind of day where I texted my cousin at 10:30 to ask her if she was free for margaritas for dinner. The kind of day where you are where you don’t know who is going to have more breakdowns, the mom or the toddler.

It started out fine, Declan woke up normal and was happy. I don’t know if he got hungry or what, but soon after I had showered, the whining started. I LOATHE whining. I ABHOR whining. I can handle screaming, squealing, endless loops of Fisher Price songs, Elmo’s voice (but just barely), and even crying. But whining.. NO. I don’t do whining. So once the whining started, my day started going down hill. Declan was having one of those days where he wants something RIGHT NOW, but when I give it to him, he’s either offended by my delivery or wants me to move faster or something, because he continues whining, only louder. So I put said item away, and the whining goes up another level.. this continues until I say “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT, FIGURE IT OUT, I’M LEAVING THE ROOM” so I don’t snap.

Then, my little newborn that I keep was fussy. Now, for him, fussy means crying for like 3 minutes. He’s the easiest baby ever. He’s the Anti-Birth Control. But he’s got me spoiled, so when he fusses at all, I’m not expecting it, so it throws me for a loop. Then the toddler I keep comes over. He’s being great, but Declan begins taking his whiny anger out on him, which leads to Declan having two time-outs and a leg swat (for kicking me in the face, no less) by 9:30. And I NEVER swat him, but I was already spent. And it wasn’t even 10 a.m.

Naps were short, crackers were spilled, walls were drawn on… the saga continued for HOURS. I called Paul and said that there was a good chance I’d bolt from the door the minute he got home, just so I could get a break. He knew it was bad.

The day leveled off some in the afternoon, but by then, my nerves were raw. Any loud noise or neediness was pushing me closer and closer to the edge of insanity. The boys I watch were picked up, and I was planning my escape in my head. I HAD to get away from kids!

So I sit down for a minute to check my email and let Declan watch some Tom and Jerry classic cartoons. It’s our afternoon thing. Anyway, he comes and crawls in my lap to look at the computer. I figure that I’m about to be pushed over the edge by him INSISTING that I put on the Thomas the Tank Engine web site so he can see “PERCY! PERCY!”, as he does daily — no, hourly — right now. But of course, as toddlers do, he surprised me.

Declan is OBSESSED with his letters right now, which of course makes me think he’s a super genius. So he sits on me and turns the computer toward him and points to the letters on the keyboard, saying “DOUBLE U” (he says it so cute) and “O” and “K” and all his faves. When he identified the letter correctly, he would clap and smile so big, his pride was astounding. Then, he turns to me after going through a few of them, and kisses me right on the lips.

SWOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And Mommy was back in business.

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Ups and Downs

I hate the second-guessing that comes with motherhood. As soon as you think you’ve got your kid figured out, they throw you for a loop and make you realize that you know NOTHING.

So as Declan approaches 2, I’ve been feeling pretty damn good about the job that Paul and I are doing. Sure, we have moments with Declan that make us A) want to put him up on Craig’s List and B) wonder how the hospital let us leave with him 22 months ago. But for the most part, things are pretty smooth. I’ve been actually kind of obnoxiously spouting off at the mouth lately about how much I enjoy this age, and that the “Terrible Twos” don’t scare me.

Ha.

Ha ha.

Never EVER say things like that about your kid. EVER.

We are apparently in some sort of teething/toddler hell right now. I don’t attribute a lot of behavioral problems with teething, normally. I see people post on Facebook or Babycenter.com, my two fave hang-outs online, about these problems they are having with their kids, and they blame so much of it on teething, and I just roll my eyes. Sure, the kids act a little fussy and drool some, but they don’t become little Satanic devils 20 different times in their short lives while every tooth comes in. If so, most people would only have one kid, or Baby Dentures would be a huge hit, kinda like Baby Toupees. But I also know that Declan is in the process of getting his four canines, and has been a total bipolar psycho for the past week. Nothing too major: refusing to nap, melting down for reasons that only exist in his head, acting horrible one minute and hilarious the next; but it’s still been the ultimate toddler roller coaster. And even though I know he’s fine, there’s nothing like a week-long meltdown to make you feel completely incompetent as a parent.

I hate not knowing what the problem is. I hate the times that I’ve assumed he was just “being difficult,” only to find out it was strep. Or the first time we tried to “Ferberize” him, and after only 15 minutes of crying, with us going in at intervals to check on him, he had vomited, pooped and scratched his face til it bled. We found out two days later he had a double ear infection. I cried for what seemed like a lot longer than 15 minutes when I found that out. And I was pissed at myself more than anything because I didn’t want to let him “cry it out,” even though he was sleeping awful. My gut screamed not to do it, but everyone I knew and trusted told me I had to. So I did, and I regret it to this day.

Luckily, after a few days, our routine is back and the devil seems to have subsided, for now. Maybe those teeth aren’t hurting as bad, maybe the endless supply of Motrin we’ve pumped in him has helped, or maybe all the Play-Doh we’ve played with this week has made him happy. My funny little guy is back to his loving self, back to napping (thank god for that) and seems back to normal, if there is such a thing as a normal toddler. And I’m reassured that even though sometimes I have no clue what in the hell is going on, following my gut and watching Declan’s cues are the best ways to get through this adventure known as parenthood. Kids don’t come with a handbook for a reason. But wouldn’t it be nice if they did?

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The big question

“So, when are you having another?”
“Are you ready for No. 2?”
“How many more do you think you’ll have?”
From the minute Declan turned one, that’s all I’ve heard. I know it’s only natural, and should probably take it as a compliment that people who have met me find it acceptable for Paul and I to reproduce again. You wouldn’t want to be the family that always hears “One really suits you!” But I was just getting the hang of Declan, why in the world would I want to screw that up with another kid???

As we made it past a year and into toddlerhood, I did not feel one urge to go through the baby phase again. I’m not a “baby person,” I guess, not that I tear their heads off or anything, but I just really like the walking, talking and hilarity that is a post-infant creature. Yea, there’s more tantrums and more messes, but there’s WAY more feedback and pay-off. I’ll take a screaming, thrashing 32 lb. beast over an immobile sack of flour any day of the week. Because after Declan thrashes and screams and pitches a fit, he may give me a hug or say “Sorry Mama” or even just throw something at me, but it’s funny. A baby can’t tell you what’s wrong, pukes on you if you move it too much (well, mine did anyway) and never sits down next to you and holds hands while watching Sesame Street.

Being an only child is part of it, too. I don’t have siblings, so I don’t “get” why you have to have them. I didn’t “miss out” on anything, which is a major concern apparently, since I’ve been told that having only one kid will cause them to “miss out” on some mystery experience that I obviously suffered through. Another argument I’ve heard in favor of multiple kids is that having more than one will help out when Paul and I die. Hmm. Well, I’m sure there is some truth to that, because hey, death can be a real PITA, but I’m not going to pop out a bunch of kids to make my funeral less stressful. My kid(s) better be damned stress… anyway, I don’t like the thought of giving Declan a sibling as “Parental Funeral Stress Assistant” or whatever. A sibling as an insurance policy just doesn’t fly with me.

So I kinda thought I’d made up my mind. We got one great kid that is perfect and healthy and happy, and I was fine with that. And while being around other babies sometimes makes my uterus hurt a little, I figure that’s just good old Biology doing its job. I’ve always been told that when you are done having kids, you just “know” somehow, and even though I wasn’t feeling the second-kid vibe, I didn’t have that iron-clad NO MORE KIDS feeling, either. So Paul and I tabled the decision til a later date.

Sometime after Christmas break, though, my mind started changing. Since I’ve been keeping kids in our home since May, Declan and I have gotten used to having company. But for a couple of weeks over the holiday, I didn’t have anybody to watch, and it was just us. I welcomed the break and the one-on-one time I got with my little man. But as soon as I got my kids back, I saw how happy Declan is when they are here. Even the newborn I keep. He talks about “Baby Sully” all day. And when Jacob, the toddler is here, they basically want me nowhere near them except when they are hungry. They play like crazy and have a blast the whole time. It suddenly hit me what it is people were talking about with siblings and what Declan would get out of having one. He’d have fun (most of the time), have a playmate (some of the time), but mainly he’d have another kid around, which seems to make him happy. And babysitting a newborn 5 days a week is pretty much the best way to figure out if you want another one or not. Being able to learn from my typical first-time-mom mistakes with Declan makes a newborn MUCH more tolerable, although I gotta say, the one I keep is damn near the easiest baby I’ve ever seen, so this whole thing may be a trick.. not sure.

So while we don’t have any plans yet, the tide is turning in my singleton brain. Adding to the mix may give our family the exact flavor it needs.

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