Mama Stands Up

Darkness.  I lay in the darkness feeling numb.  Am I awake?  Praying for that feeling a relief to wash over me like slipping into a steaming bath.  But that warmth does not arrive.  Instead panic flashes.  Hot and dry in my throat.  What am I going to say to my children?  I need to be brave.  But how can I dig for that courage when it’s not there?  It’s buried deep under fear, panic, shame and sheer disappointment that runs white hot through me.

For months, I have pushed this possibility to the side.  For nearly a year, I’ve laughed this off as an embarrassing joke.  But what I have really done is forced myself to believe in humanity.  Challenged my fearful mind to trust that good will win- it has to, right?  That the majority of humans care beyond their doorstep.  Feel a sense of duty to protect our so very fragile society and vote with their hearts.  The disappointment I feel is for the reality that what’s in my heart is not in the majority of the hearts across our country.  I struggle to reconcile the notion that I’m the minority in my values.

5:49am.  Cub walks in to my room and crawls into bed.  Warm, innocent hands wrap into my own.  Did Hillary win, Mom?  I hesitate.  Waiting.  Like I’m expecting something wise to come.  Instead, No, baby.  She didn’t is all that falls out.  He rolls over to face me.  Searching my eyes and my mouth, his breath whispering, heart pumping.  She didn’t win I say again.  This time a little louder, pushing my voice past the hardness in my throat, testing how the words feel in my mouth, how it sounds to hear myself say it.  Cubs eyes fall.  He knows that evil won today.

The piercing, jagged truth is, he knows what this means.  I openly shared my feelings for not supporting Donald Trump.  My children know all the reasons this man did not earn our vote.  I shared these reasons because I genuinely did not believe that others would be able to see past the truths, the facts, and support him.  Of course I knew some could but I had no idea so many would.  So now I feel duped.  So does my kid.  So now what.  What do we do?

Well for starters, I am not going to be silent.  I am not going to roll over and make the best of this.  I am going to Stand Up.  I am going to look for places where I can Stand Up.  And Standing Up now means something different.  I won’t be silenced by Facebook, like I realize I have been for so long.  Words on a screen that mean nothing.  No action.  Look, I shared an article!  Now that I’ve let everyone know what side of an issue I’m on, I can go back to posting pics of my kids, recipes or memes.  For fucking real?  You know whats different about activism now than during the 60’s?  You actually had to show up to Stand Up.  You couldn’t just post a pic of a Civil Rights March, hashtag it and call it a day.  You actually had to show up.

I hear people say about the election outcome, We did this.  Guess what?  I actually didn’t do this.  And I am sick of being the We.  The We are the people who voted for this man.  The We don’t hold the same values as what’s in my heart.  The We are the people who are just going to go about their business and ignore the fact that evil won.  That gender discrimination, racial ignorance, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration won.  I am not the We.  I am the Me.  And the Me feels like the only thing I can do right now is Stand Up.  I vow to seek out injustice.  And DO something about it.  No matter how small that is.  I will no longer smile apologetically at the woman holding a “WOMEN’S RIGHTS MATTER” sign outside Planned Parenthood.  I will hold a sign next to her.  Are you Muslim?  I’m in your corner.  Are you an immigrant?  A refugee?  Are you black?  Consider me your ally.  Are you gay?  I will hold your hand.  Are you a strong, powerful woman?  I’ve got your back, girl.  I will not look for fights but I will seek opportunities to show that I am not the We.

And I will do this in front of my kids.  I will encourage them to do the same.  To say nothing is not an option for me.  And as angry as I was at 5am, I feel that anger replaced with a sense of duty.  I have deactivated my Facebook account to push myself to use action as my platform, instead of a social media account.  I’ll dearly miss the pics of your adorable kiddos but this feels more important to me right now.  I need to challenge myself to act instead of post a status or share a comical clip from the Daily Show.  Now, I have a sense of how to move forward.  I may not be able to influence laws from my tiny town in a tiny state but I can let people know how I feel about them.  I am not the We.  I can show up.  And I will Stand Up.  And I hope you will too.  Because it’s the only way I know to get through this right now.

With all my heart, I wish you Peace, Mamas.

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Primal

How do we learn to love our children? When does it begin? Where does it grow from? Is the love just there all of a sudden or does it bloom over time?

This last fall was one of tragedy. I watched a Mama lose her baby. This Mama waited a near-eight months to meet her child and spent a mere 12 hours with her. Then this Mama lost her baby. In seconds, that tiny, beating heart slowed to a stop. And just as quickly as she was there, she was gone. Yet the longing, the seed of adoration was planted. And now this Mama will spend the rest of her life longing for a different ending.  A do-over she will never get.

As a Mama with three children, these last couple months have been humbling.  And it makes me wonder where the love comes from.  That feeling that washed over me when I took in my new babies and cried because the love so violently gripped my heart.  I have that same feeling even now, when I lay next to a sleeping child, whether he is nine, six or four, as I watch him sleep.  Peacefully, trusting and innocent in my arms.  Where does it come from?

I watched as this new Mama grew that love.  Witnessed as it rose in her like a building wave, crashing into her heart, breaking into her soul.  The love seemed to scare her, feeling foreign and unexplainable, yet coursed through her like nothing she had felt before.  And then the being for whom this crushing emotion was felt, was gone, leaving her raw and starved.  So what is the Mama to do with all the love that was left over?  That love that wasn’t there the day before seems so familiar now.  That love collides with a loss so profound it cannot be explained, for the word grief seems painfully pathetic in comparison to the feelings this loss actually illicits.  But the woman is now a Mama.  She is changed.

I have learned that children do not make the Mama.  The devotion to a life other than your own is what makes the Mama.  It’s a love with which we are all familiar whether we make the same decisions about bedtimes, school, discipline or vaccines we all share that unfathomable adoration for our children.  And to hold all that love in your heart for a child who is not in your arms, at your breast, in your sight, forces one to conjure a strength so powerful that it almost seems impossible to trudge on.  But even without the child, she is still a Mama.  The Mama is in her now.  And she will never again be the same.

And after witnessing this, I will never be the same either.  I’ve come to recognize that the love of a Mama is the most basic of our actions.  An unlearned emotion which all of a sudden and uncontrollably just exists.  The love of a Mama is only known to another Mama.  The love of a Mama is Primal.

Peace, Mamas.

 

Mama Drops the F-bomb

Today has been one of those days.  One of those days.

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The day began pretty typically for a Saturday with the Hub leaving for work at 6:00am, kissing me gently on the forehead as I barely have the strength to move, both arms trapped under sleeping boys.  As he walks out, I lay, trying to remember when and how they ended up pinning me to the mattress.  I have no clue.  I move.  Eyelids snap open.  Coffee.  Heading into the kitchen, I am struck by the most debilitating pain in my foot.  Crumbling to the floor, clutching my foot with tears starting to sting my barely awakened eyes.  A Lego.  A mother-humping Lego.  And it’s still stuck in my foot.  Right in the sweet spot between the ball and the pad.  I can barely contain it but I am thinking it.  Really thinking it.  Fuck.  It’s not out loud.  But it’s more oozing from the pores in my forehead.  I am sweating obscenities.

I manage to recover.  With no help or concern from the little beasts gobbling granola bars and fruit cups from the couch, little eyes glued to glowing screen like they’re in some kind of trance.  I survey the house.  The living room is pretty bad.  The sink is piled with dishes.  I efficiently, almost smugly, loaded the dishwasher the night before last (yes, you read that right) only to find that we were out of detergent.  And then I forgot to get it yesterday.  So now, this morning, not only is the dishwasher full of dirty dishes, but all the dishes from yesterday are piled in the sink.  Sweet.

Looking over to the playroom, I am filled with anxiety and dread.  That has to be cleaned.  You see, we are in the beginning stages of selling our house and have people coming to look at it tomorrow.  Tomorrow.  And they are such a sweet young couple… The sight of that playroom may affect them so profoundly that they may never again be able to stomach the idea of bringing children into the world.  But more importantly, they probably wouldn’t buy our house.  I sit.  Staring- glaring in at the mass of plastic, knowing that I will have to find a spot for each and every piece of shit in there.

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Fuck.  Again, not out loud but in my soul, I am breathing this curse in deeply and spitting it out from far in the back of my throat.  Silently.  And with a smile.  Because that’s what we Mamas do, right?  We hold shit together.  For everyone.  With a smile.  Because if we can’t, everything falls apart.  Everything falls apart.  No pressure.

Mooch has a birthday party today and we have yet to choose the perfect gift so we are off to pick out something ridiculously pink, frilly and girly.  Just have to pick out clothes for everyone.  Walking into my bedroom, the fury of my looming task in the playroom returns in full force.  Standing in the doorway, looking down at the heaps of laundry I must also deal with.  But later.  I dig in, searching out shirts and pants and underwear, and socks.  God, I hate looking for socks.  Hunching over, trying desperately to find the match to a dinosaur sock, I am so engrossed in my quest that I don’t even hear the smallest child sneaking up and pouncing on my back, catching me off guard, sending me face first into an over-turned laundry basket.  Fuck.  This time, it’s mostly in my head but the Fffffff slips a little.  Hi Mama!  Got you!  And he runs off.  The quest is over.  Mooch will not be wearing matching socks today.  I walk out of the room, but not before I take one long look back…  Knowing I will have to tackle this later.

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Mooch is pissed about his mis-matched socks.  Zook won’t wear his coat.  Cub is bitching at me for something but I can’t even hear him over Zook’s angry wails.  We manage to make it into the car.  Zook continues with the sobs- now because he wants to take his seat belt off.  I stop to pick them up bagels.  Silence as they chow in the backseat.  The toy store is uneventful except leaving- which is always stressful.  Always.  And ends with me yelling that I am leaving as at least two kids run screaming, partially believing that I may actually be gone.  I am beat.  But we have a gift that looks like something a fairy barfed up so I think we are in good shape for this party.  Mooch steps in cream cheese.  And now it’s all over the car.  My wallet falls to the ground into a mud puddle.  Along with the card for the gift.  Cub stands, looking at my wallet, acting like a sponge, soaking up the murky water.  Pick it up, I am saying to him.  But he’s just standing there.  I’m not putting my hand in that… I vaguely hear him say as I am wiping cream cheese off virtually every surface with upholstery.  Scooping my water-logged wallet up, I glare at Cub.  I get in and just as I swing my arm down, I feel a bump.  Hear a splash.  Looking down, I see that someone has left a full bottle of milk on the center console.  Without the cap.

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Fuck.  This time it’s out loud.  Instant shame.  Did I just do that?  Was that out loud?  Did they hear that?  I desperately scan the rear view mirror.  Yup.  They totally heard that.  No one says anything.  Nothing.  Deep breaths.  I put the cap back on the milk. Put my seat belt on, after about ten deep breaths.  I pull out of the parking lot.  I know I should say something but I am just not quite sure what that should be so I just drive.  Finally, I just blurt out, I am sorry.  That was a really bad word.  Mama was really angry and frustrated but it’s still not okay for me to say bad words.  Quiet.  And then giggles.  Breathe Mama.

It was a day.  A bad day.  One of those days.  But now it’s over.  Now, they are up in their beds. They know their Mama isn’t perfect but they know she tries her hardest every day.  The playroom is clean.  The dishes are done.  And the laundry, well that’s still up there.  But tomorrow is another day.

Peace, Mamas.

Mama is Lost

Ever have one of those days (weeks or months, really) where you start to feel lost?  Where you question everything about the way you are raising your kids.  Usually it’s easier for me to push those feelings of insecurity back down with my foot- like packing down the garbage I should have taken out two (three) days ago.  Packing it down is just not working right now.

Lately I have been doing a lot of reading about alternative parenting.  I have never considered myself a traditional parent by any means but I am starting to feel like I have fallen into that category in the last couple weeks.  Sit at the table until your plate is clear.  No talking until your coat is on.  Don’t talk while  am talking.  Seriously?  Seriously.  What is my problem?  Where has the kind-hearted, patient, sensitive Mama gone?  My kids want her back.  And I do too.

She’s probably buried under that pile of five loads of laundry.  Or trying to climb out from the stack of crusty dishes in the sink.  She could be digging her way out of permission slips, math games, book orders, dental appointments, grocery shopping, preschool meetings or meal planning.  Or she could be smothered by researching “clean” recipes, heathy fats and GMOs or she’s trying desperately to fit working out in because goddammit she has to put on that bathing suit in a month.  Oh wait, you have a job too, Mama?

So that’s where Mama went.  Come back Mama.

Trying.  Wishing desperately that I could find the balance.  The thing is my life is so full.  But the fullness I focus on are the parts that don’t matter.  What will my kids remember?  Will they remember laundry piles, dishes, permission slips, book orders, dental schedules or the ridiculous task of creating a meal plan which is “clean” and compatible with the eating habits of a three year-old?  Nope.  Will they remember what their Mama looked like in her bathing suit?  Nope.  But will they remember Mama not playing with them?  Will they remember being forced to sit at the table alone, in the dark kitchen while everyone else is playing a laughing together?  Probably.  Definitely.

To let go of all that extra stuff is so hard though.  Harder than anyone admits.

I need to remember what’s important.  I need to color with Zook.  I need to race cars across the floor with Mooch.  I need to read Harry Potter with Cub.  I need to jump into football playoffs and superheroes and sharks.  I need to chase and tickle and cuddle them.  The things I need to be buried in, smothered by and consumed with are my children.  And I know I can get back there.

Mama is coming back.  Mama is back.

Peace, Mamas.

“Mom, I Know What Happened with the Twin Towers…”

Cue the sucker punch to the bread basket.  We stopped for a quick bite after finishing up some Christmas shopping tonight.  So we share about our day.  And it was over some fries and burgers that this came out of Cub.  “Mom, I know what happened with the Twin Towers.”  Oh, are the kids talking about this in school?  Keep calm, Mama.  But I can’t.  The knot in my stomach is creeping by it’s fingernails up my throat.  So I do what any logical person would do to push that knot back down: I cram more fries in my face.  As fast as I can, really.  Gross?  I know.  But I can’t stop.  “No, no one is talking about it, I watched a video about it in the library at computer time.”  You did… Were there other videos?  The fries are barely keeping the panic at bay.  “Oh yeah, there’s ones about the nuclear bomb and Nazi’s.  I think the bomb is also called a Nuke.”  Okay, okay.  Okay.  We’ll talk about this later when your brothers aren’t sitting right here.  Who wants to tell about their day?  “I want to hear more about the nukes!” said my five year old with such enthusiasm that the fries were no longer cutting it.  After a few long pulls on the chocolate shake, I successfully change the subject.

So that’s how it went down.  I binge-ate and my kid knows about the largest and most horrific act of terrorism our country has seen.

As we drove home, the boys sang along to a Miley Cyrus song and argued over which superheroes are the strongest.  You know, normal, annoying shit kids should be talking about.  Meanwhile, I tried to process the conversation and my feeling about it.  Because I am a social worker and we social workers just love to process.  Why am I so upset about this?  I knew he was going to find out at some point.  He should know.  It’s a huge part of our history.  And that’s when it hits me.  It’s not really part of our history because it’s hasn’t really been long enough to be history.

I remember that Tuesday morning.  You remember too, don’t you.  A glorious fall morning.  I was serving serving coffee at a small cafe.  My second year of college had just begun.  Pink shirt, black pants- which were probably a bit to tight but really brought in the tips.  The radio blares Hotel California.  The phones rings and it’s my soon-to-be-husband.  Two planes flew into the World Trade Center.  My mind sort of stops for a minute.  Why?  How did the pilots manage to crash their planes into two buildings right next to each other?  I hang up the phone.  Thinking, thinking.  A customer bursts through the door.  They bombed the Pentagon too, turn on the radio.  My hands leave fog marks on the stainless steel counter.  And the rest of the day is a little blurry.  Customers come and go.  We don’t tell people to have a good day.  In fact, we don’t really say much of anything.  We just sort of make eye contact.  Like the kind of eye contact where you just want to tell someone, I know.  I feel the same way.  How could this happen?

Then came the death tolls and the shaky video footage.  And the screaming people running down stairs.  The brave souls who entered to get strangers to safety who never came out again themselves.  All the cable channels were shut down.  You know it’s bad when Food Network is offline.  The only thing we Americans could watch was the news.  And holy shit, did we watch the news.

Recounting all of this during my drive home brought me to tears.  This is not history.  This is now.

And that’s just it.

When my kids ask about slavery or civil rights, colossal mistakes in our nation’s past, I can say things like, We know now.  People acted out of stupidity, ignorance and fear.  But how do I explain something to them that exists today?  Seriously.  Someone please tell me how I am supposed to make sense of terrorism to my child?  Please.  Still to this day, men and women (and in some cases children) strap explosives to their bodies and go to schools, town squares, places of worship and marathons, with the intention of taking their own life and as many other lives as possible.  This isn’t history.  This is now.  Right now.

As we sit on his bedroom floor, I finally muster up my courage.  Tell me about the Twin Towers.  And he does.  And asks if it’s true.  Yes, honey.  It’s all true.  But what I don’t understand, says my gentle, thoughtful eight-year-old baby, Is why would those men do that?  Like a dump truck of bricks, this shakes me.  To my core.  I don’t know.  I can’t understand why anyone would hurt another person.  I can’t imaging something that would make that okay.  Me either.  Does it make you feel scared?  Yeah.  And sad.  Those people died.  Yes.  There were many people in those buildings when they were hit.  Oh.  I meant the men who took over the planes died.  I am sad for them and the other people who died too.

This is the silky, fluid innocence that I can literally feel slipping through my fingers.  Sad for the people who died in the buildings but also for the men who died trying to murder others.  Why can’t this world be filled with kind souls like this child?  Oh wait, it is.  We shape them.  Society shapes them.  We can’t protect our children from the terribleness of the world, the complicated sticky mess of a society in which we live.  And that makes me feel powerless but we also need to remember that innocence, kindness and empathy don’t need to be cultivated.  Those attributes already exist.  I believe to my core that humans are born good.  I could have said, those men deserved to die because they killed others.  Hate breeds hate.  I don’t want to raise him to hate.

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So maybe the answer is that I need to be honest: I can’t make sense of this because there is no sense to be made.  He seemed to grasp this tonight.  This is the first of many, many conversations which will test us as parents.  I am not in the business of handing out advice but what I can say is that being honest with my kids seems to work.  It feels vulnerable and raw and like I don’t have all the answers but I think it also propels my children to process things that they don’t understand.  To mull them over for a while.  That it’s okay to not have an answer as long as you continue to devote thought to it and talk it over as you work your way through.  I am just a Mama who is terrified of failing at this Mamahood gig.  So I process.  So I throw my plea out to the universe hoping that I am able to find my way.  That I can be the Mama they deserve.

Peace, Mamas.

Mama Needs an Outlet

An outlet.  An outlet for frustration, exhaustion, stress and yes sometimes anger.  Mama needs an outlet.  Sometimes that outlet comes in the form of a few stolen minutes with a book (which does not rhyme or have pictures), a television show (with no songs or matching games) or an uninterrupted phone call (not with the nurse from the pediatrician’s office describing in great detail the color of your child’s snot).  The thing is we don’t have enough of them because we spend so much time with the f’n kids- which seemed like a great idea at one point…

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I am a sponge, absorbing all the fears, anxieties and concerns my children have.  I am an outlet for their worries: Who will I sit with at lunch?  Where does the library book go?  What if there is a fire alarm?  Will Emma invite me to her birthday party?  I lost my Croc.  Harry told me there are tiny bugs on my toothbrush.  Julie went home today because she had an itchy head.  Oh dear god.  All these worries are unloaded on Mama.  And in turn, I make their fears go away, all the while soaking in the worries and carrying them now as my own.

And they are heavy.

In addition to the concerns they have, there are more: Do I have enough gas to make it to the gas station?  And what if I run out of gas?  Do we all walk down the road together?  What do I carry the gas back to the car with?  Do I have my credit card?  Did that bill get mailed out on time?  When is that conference for Cub?  Crap, I forgot cat food.  How are we going to retire before we are 80?  Is the fucking government still shut down?  These are the day-to-day thoughts that run wild, flitting from one concern to the next.

And they are heavy.

On top of home concerns, there’s a butt-load of work anxiety too: When is that deadline?  Can I rely on her to have that to me on time?  Can I really refrain from screaming at that meeting?  What is my password again?  No, I don’t give a shit about how your dog woke you up last night or the cute thing he does when you walk in the door.  I hope I am the only one who can smell my armpits right now…  The work worry compounds the home worry and the kid worry…

And it’s heavy.  Break-your-back-heavy.

And it’s okay.  It’s normal.  I know this now.  I have accepted worry as a part of my life that will always be there.  Lurking.  As I would sit in the dark, nursing my babe, new to Mamahood, I would run through worse-case scenarios.  What happens if I drop him?  What if when I am in the shower, the cat smother’s him?  Is that real?  What happens if I wake up in the morning and find that someone has taken my baby?  Where would I look?  Thank god I turned off Lifetime and Dateline.  I spent so much time letting in all of this stuff.  And that’s just what it is, right? Stuff.  It’s taking up space in my already cloudy mind.  Taking up so much space that sometimes, I don’t have enough time to let in the good stuff.  The stuff I should be focusing on.

Mama needs an outlet.  I found that in running.   This weekend, I finished my first 5K.  And it felt awesome.  I trained for it, planned for it and did it.  All for me.  For the first time in my career as a Mama, I did something for myself.  I ran in the evenings, while husband put the kids to bed (added bonus), I ran on my lunch break at work (yes, my armpits were totally smelly), I ran on the weekends at 7:00 in the morning.  I ran in the rain.  I ran for me.  This was my outlet.

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Find your outlet Mamas.  Let out all that you let in.  Unload the worry you carry for your kids, your homes, your husbands, your jobs.  Let. That. Shit. Out.  Because then you can breathe again.  It has taken me eight years to find my outlet- far, far too long.  It was a disservice to my children and myself.  I could have been a better Mama.  I should have focused on the good stuff. I am making up for it now.  I have my outlet and I am not going to ignore the deep necessity to have something of my own.  It’s not selfish or greedy.  It’s enriching and empowering.  Find that outlet.  Even if it’s wine.

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Peace, Mamas.

Who the Hell is Plastic Man?

Which book do you want me to read you tonight?  I ask without even having to guess.  Batman and Friends!  Woo-hoo.  I am so sick of reading this book.  Every night.  Every night we read Batman and Friends.  Every. Damn. Night.  Do your kids pick the same books to read over?  It can be physically painful to read a book over and over every night.  My anxiety is already through the roof because I want to walk out and shut that light off- of sweet Jesus how I want to shut that light off!- but no.  And then to read the same book?  Again?  Does Guantanamo have Batman and Friends?  Maybe they should look into that.  In my opinion it could be more effective than water-boarding.

So tonight following the showers-teeth-brushing-jammie-pick-books-fuck-show we are laying in bed reading… Batman and Friends!  It’s tonight, on my forty-eighth reading of the damn book that it occurs to me: Who the hell is Plastic Man?!  Is this guy for real?  He’s wearing plastic pimp sunglasses and has a stripper costume on.  Seriously?

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Initially, I was required to gain vast knowledge about tractors and construction equipment.  By the time my Cub was 18 months old, I could tell you the difference between a backhoe, front loader, skid steer, straddle-carrier, forklift, knuckle-boom loader, skidder, grapple truck, log-feller, and so on.  Next it was tractors and farm equipment.  I knew my Kaboda from my Massey Ferguson; my Husqvarna from a Cub Cadet.  I could name implements (yes, that’s what they are really, called) like combine harvesters, plows, round hay balers, hay rakes, row-crop planters, harrows and disks.  And then came the John Deere.  The 8020s, Model C, Johnny Poppers, Waterloo Boy, Spoker D and the Lindeman 420 Crawler.  I knew articulated and styled versus unstyled.  And now we have moved on from tractors and discovered superheroes.

So back to Plastic Man.  Now I am not here to break down (or build up) any gender stereo-types here but as a female product of the ’80’s, She-ra was my superhero.  I did on occasion watch He-man but didn’t really get into Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern.  I knew who they were, I guess but my knowledge was peripheral at best.  It wasn’t until I was gifted three boys that my understanding of superheroes has be broadened.  Significantly.

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Who the hell is Plastic Man, you ask?  Well according to Wikipedia, Plastic Man started out an abandoned 10 year old criminal, cracking safes.  It wasn’t until he was shot and fell into some kind of chemical bath and nursed back to health in a monastery that he found his new Plastic Powers and began fighting crime.  Wow.  Who makes this shit up?!  He also has a sidekick, Woozy Winks.  (Seriously folks.  No joke.)

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So now I am an expert on tractors, construction and logging equipment and Plastic Man.  Now who’s the Princess of Power?

Peace, Mamas.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

My little Mooch has turned into a bit of a fibber.  I know it sounds naive but I am shocked he’s turned to lying.  My oldest, Cub, has never been a liar- almost to a fault, if that’s possible.  So I was quite shocked last week when I popped in to his kindergarten class and the teacher approached me asking if we were “all packed”…  For what?  For your trip- and are you really going to swim with sharks?  That’s so exciting!  Ahh… No.  And what the hell are you talking about?

At first, it just started with little things, like what someone had said.  But today it was down right lying.

Mooch: Today on the bus, a big kid got on the bus and said Little kids have to sit in the front! and pointed at me.

Me: Really?  Who was he?  What did you say?

Mooch: Well, I told him to Zip it.

Me: Wow. What did he do?

Mooch: He walked away.  Oh and you don’t have to ask Cub about it because he was there…

Me: What do you mean by that…?  If I ask him about it, would he tell me the story the same way?

Mooch: Um.  No…  He actually didn’t hear anything.

Me: So he didn’t hear this but he was sitting in the same seat as you?

Mooch: Right.

Me: Riiiight.

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What the hell kid?  He’s such a little fibber!  I know kids fib because they are insecure and looking for praise, acceptance and admiration.  Right now, this poor bug is trying so hard to fit in with his friends.  It’s hard to see him so insecure right now.  He’s always been my kiddo who was so sure of himself, easily befriending anyone who showed interest.  I still remember the love note I wrote to him on the eve of his kindergarten registration… It’s happening… And it’s heartbreaking to see his self-esteem plummet.

We talked up kindergarten so much.  He was so excited.  You’ll make so many friends!  You’re going to have so much fun!  Kindergarten is going to be a blast…  In hindsight, maybe we talked it up too much.  (Damn hindsight!  Where were you a couple of months ago?!)  I think he’s feeling let down.  And I think I caused it.  We wanted him to be so excited about kindergarten that we talked it up constantly.  We didn’t leave out the parts about how something new can make us nervous, or that it will take some time to get used to a new school with a new teacher and new friends.  We did say those things too but I think we played up the fun factor and he was really excited… Only to be disappointed.  Kindergarten is hard work.  It’s not easy to make new friends.  It’s tough to listen and focus for hours on end.  It’s a challenge to remember where your backpack/lunch bag/coat/ homework folder are supposed to go.  It’s hard to belong.

The fibbing is a symptom of a much larger ailment brewing.  Insecurity is ugly.  And right now this virus is coursing through his veins.  Telling his class about going on a vacation to swim with sharks made him feel special.  Made him feel cool.  Maybe made the other kids like him… Is it sick that I want to go with him and sit with him when he’s lonely?  Hold his hand when he’s scared, hug him when he’s been hurt?  The thought of him needing these things from me and not being there to provide them, is about the worse feeling imaginable in all of Mamahood.  I want to be there every second to say the right thing and make sure he’s always okay.  I know it’s irrational.  I know there are some Mamas who would say that we both need to suck it up.  But I don’t care how bat-shit-crazy it sounds.  I wish I could be by his side in case he needs me.

I need to trust that I have done my job well.  And that’s hard- especially when I lay in bed, feeling like I have failed in some capacity about fifty percent of the time.  How do I know I am doing the right thing?  Parenting is such a tough job.  And I am so scared that I am fucking up these perfect little souls.  Like I am unintentionally ruining them.  I need to trust that I have done my job well.  And I need not own my poor Mooch’s feelings of insecurity but empower him to be the amazing little human he was born to be.

Tonight, I overheard him tell his brother that he wished he was a fast runner like another kid.  I took the opportunity to say the following:

If you want to run faster, challenge yourself to run faster- but only if that’s what you truly want.  People are best at the things they love.  If you love to run, you will be fast.  And if you love to draw, you will be a wonderful artist.  Please don’t try to be anyone other than who you are.  Because you are such a gift.  And others will like you for you.  

Silence.  Breathing in the moment and thinking that I may have filled his little heart with hope and love, I watched him.

Mama, Graham said that some ladies have a lot of hair in their pits and some don’t.  Can I see yours?  My pits?  You want to see my pits?  Yup.

Seriously.  I give up.

Peace, Mamas.

Kindergarten Hell

We are in Kindergarten Hell.  My sweet, charming little Mooch left on the first day of school with a mere wave and what walked off that bus was a fib-telling, tantrum-throwing, rule-hating little demon, packed inside the shell that once was my son.  What the hell.  Where did my sweet, polite child go?  He went to Kindergarten.

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First there was the meanness to little Zook (whom I have no concern that he can hold his own) then there was the tantrum at soccer.  Soccer.  All was kosher until I whip around to seem my child (or what was once my child) stamping across the soccer field in the middle of the game sobbing and screaming.  The screams were barely decipherable (my hope was that they were completely indecipherable), the tears were flowing, arms swinging wildly in the air.  I hate soccer!  I hate my team!  I hate it!  I hate soccer- and my team! Sob.  Sob.  Sob.  After about 10 minutes of rolling, kicking (not at the soccer ball), drooling and snotting on the sideline, he finally was able to tell me what had offended him to this extent: He hadn’t yet scored a goal.  Really?!

There’s been meltdowns over the order of tooth brushing, nightly book choice, “wimpy” [insert item of clothing or footwear here], getting out of bed in the morning and into bed at night.  We have had hitting, pushing, pinching, throwing and fist-pushing (pushing your closed fist into someone’s stomach without the quick force of a punch- but with the same outcome). We have had arguing over meals and drinks and I’ve answered questions like Why can’t I have cookies for breakfast? Everyday.  (Which reminds me, I totally need to do a Things I Wish I Could Say Part 2…)

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My rationale is that he’s balking at his now-structured day, learning not only about numbers and letters but also about bullies and meanness.  Hearing new words and phrases, new jokes and insults- and trying them out at home.  On us.  There have been a couple times in the last two weeks that I have looked into his eyes, pleading with desperation… Please send my sweet innocent boy home to me!  Tonight, as I was tucking him into bed, he seemed sad.  What’s up Mooch?  How’s school?  Good. Is there anything you’d like to change about kindergarten? Silence and then…  Sometimes at Morning Meeting, the kids tell me to scooch over and I don’t have room to scooch.  Emma told me to scooch.  And I scooched.  And then Henry told me to scooch back.  But I had no where to scooch back.  Tears stung my eyes, my throat had that hard lump in the back.  As my Mooch looked down, he picked a chip of paint that had dried under his thumbnail… I didn’t have anywhere to scooch.  And then he leaned into me.

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So much is happening for him right now.  New friends, new rules, new words, new routines, new, new, new.  And he’s having a hard time catching up.  And I know he’ll get there but right now it’s really hard.  Hard to know what to ask and how to respond, when to talk and when to stay quiet, when to play and when to listen.  I can see that his behavior over the last two weeks has been a cry (okay, screaming tantrum) for direction, support and extra attention.  So that’s what this Mama needs to provide.  My dear Mooch, I will help you through this.  And you will learn how to be a kindergartner; I will learn what you need.  And we will conquer Kindergarten Hell.  Together.

Peace, Mamas.

Coming Up for Air

Holy shit that was fast.  In a nanosecond, summer passed us by.  It’s been a while.  My last post was about indulging myself in what was supposed to be my kids’ summer vacation.  Once I abandoned being a self-absorbed lamo, I threw myself into playing with my three little dudes.  We beached it a few times, went to the library a bunch and hung out in the yard, ran in the grass and fell into bed with dirty feet.  And we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory for a tour.  Which taught me a few nuggets of parenting genius- which of course, I intend to share here.

I hadn’t done many things with all three kiddos solo- other than work on my (semi) stay-at-home mom tan, while Pintersting as the kids dug holes at the beach- so I decided we needed a trip- somewhere to acquaint them with the culture of our state (Vermont), somewhere they could learn about local agriculture and industry, somewhere educational… Yup, we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory.  To learn about ice cream!  I was quite proud of myself as I drove to Waterbury (about a 35 minute commute from home), nearly smug as I pulled into the parking lot, pumping myself up.  See, Mama!  You can do this on your own!  Everyone is happy and ready for a relaxed day of ice cream and fun.  Ha.  Sure they are.  After parking, I gleefully walk to the trunk to get out the stroller- essential piece of equipment for a solo Mama of three at in ice cream factory…  Trunk’s empty.  What the fuck.  Reminder: send husband a hate text.  Now what.  Well, I guess Zook is going to have to walk.  Sure.  That will be simple.  A two-year-old is totally going to hold my hand and walk calmly and quietly as we tour an ice cream factory, right?  Riiiight.  Parenting Nugget #1: Always bring the fucking stroller.

Unloading everyone from the car, I pass out cheerful reminders like party favors.  Let’s try to be really good listeners today!  Mama needs your help to be calm!  We all need to work together and follow directions!  Hopefully they are not listening well enough to hear the panic bubbling in my throat…  This was going to be a long morning.  And why the hell do I not have the stroller?!  Okay Zook, hold Mama’s hand…  Nope.  Me run now!  Shit.

Up the 47 stairs from the parking lot.  Inside and into line to buy the tickets.  Thirty minutes until our tour begins… What are we going to do to kill some time.  Cub spots a spin art station.  The kids run over, to drop paint from a bottle onto a spinning sheet of paper.  Now I have to point out here that although the kids loved this, whoever in their right mind thought that a horde of children crowding around a spin art table was a good idea, clearly did not have children.  “Okay, just one drop of each color!”, the cheerful (annoyingly cheerful) 16 year old girl says to the boys as they rush the spinning paper.  Oh yeah, they are totally going to listen to you, honey.  Good one.  Zook takes a death grip on the bottle and squeezes like he’s trying to force out the last bit of ketchup.  Except the bottle is full and now there’s paint everywhere.  Everywhere.  Sweating, I pry the (now nearly empty) paint bottle from his paint-covered hands.  And now he’s screaming.  There’s paint everywhere.  Calm down, pull it together.  Clean up.  Who wants to pose in front of the giant ice cream truck?  Parenting Nugget #2: Don’t ever let a two year old do spin art.

Okay so spin art sucked up about 12 minutes- including clean up, which was really rather impressive.  Now what.  The boys spot a playground.  Perfect.  Just as they descend on the slides and climbing walls, I feel it.  The trickle.  A week early.  I have on mint green capris.  Fuck.  Boys!  We have to go back to the car for a minute.  Moans.  Whining.  All the “but we just got here”, “we want to stay” start a’flowing.  I forgot something and we need to go back to the car. Now.  Grumbling.  Of course Zook wants to walk.  All the way back to the car.  Oh dear god… This is bad.  In an effort to maintain my calm facade and struggling not to start screaming- or running- I try to formulate my plan of attack.  Do I dare leave them outside the stall in the bathroom?  Do I bring them in?  No.  There will be questions… Questions are bad.  The car.  I have to make it work in the car.  Good god, I have to make it work in the car!

I’ll spare you the details but my critical, curious (and a little annoying) 8 year old pretty much bitched me out the whole time while Zook literally devoured half a tube of chapstick and Mooch asked about 40,000 times how many more minutes until our tour- which by this time, I had completely forgotten about because so far, this fun trip to the ice cream factory has consisted of no stroller, spin art and my fucking period.  Where’s the bar.  Mama needs a drink.  Parenting Nugget #3: Don’t get your period at the ice cream factory.  (What?  TMI, you say?  Well, the name of this blog is Mama Gets Real.  And this is about as real as it gets.)

Long story long, we made it to the tour in the nick of time.  It was pretty boring.  But there was ice cream at the end and no one had a melt down.  As we drove out of the parking lot, Cub asked if we could do this every weekend, Mooch asked if we could have ice cream for dinner and Zook was passed out before we hit the interstate.  And my mint capris were totally fine.  Just when I think things are falling apart, they come together.  I forced myself to remain positive and my little ducklings followed suit.  Our summer wrapped up nicely.  My heart feels so full when I think about our last days of summer.  Completely elated that I had this time with them- which while stressful, warmed my soul.  Parenting Nugget #4: Enjoy these summer moments… Because the shit hits the fan when school starts again.

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Peace, Mamas!