Bye, Bye Booby

For real.  This, the eve of his third birthday, also marks one month since Zook last nursed.  A few months back, I posted about my little guy giving up his nightly boob.  Sad, but not really surprising.  He was two and a half…  So although we did not nurse before bed, he awoke craving his mama’s milk instantly as his eyes opened.  And it went on like this for quite a while.  I had no clue that it would go on this long.  But it did.

Zook is my last baby.  Our family of five is complete.  What is apparent to most parents after two children became a blaring reality after he was born: Children are a lot of work.  And making sure that they all survive the day is also a lot of work.  So I relished in our nursing relationship- the Journey as many call it- because I knew this was the last chance I would have to grow this bond with a child.  I never thought of myself as an extended breastfeeder- not that I had any judgments about people who breastfed past a year… or two… or three… I just did’t think it was for me.  And then I was that Mama.

He just never appeared to be a toddler or (gulp) a preschooler.  He just looked so much like my baby that I was blind to the progression of his increasing age.  With each passing month, I thought surely it would be any day.  I was sure that after his second birthday, he would give it up but just like so many other things, the books were wrong about this too.  After his second birthday, I began scrutinizing about each session.  I gave myself such a hard time. And it was stupid because I was the only one putting the pressure on to kick this.  My husband was more than supportive- half because he relied on me to “give him a boob” to get our insanely temperamental sweet child to shut the F up calm down in any public setting.   And the other half of the reason he was so supportive was because he saw how much it meant to our little guy.  Don’t you think he’s a little old? I would say.  According to who?  He’d answer.  But do you think he still really needs it?  I’d say.  Look how much he loves it.  If it still works for you, don’t take it away from him.  He’d say.  For real.  (Reminder: Hug this man.)  So I just decided to go with it.  

Slowly, he would miss a morning booby sesh.  Then he would miss a day.  And then two.  And then three…  And then.  It was gone.  Still, one month later, the sadness creeps into my throat.  But I am comforted by the idea that he weaned me as much as himself.  Had he cut me off, I would have been heart-broken.  (Yes, folks, this was about me too.)  So he weaned me.  Slowly, and on his terms.  This happened just the way it was supposed to.  It was true self-weaning.  It was hard and there were times I wanted to give up- just as much as there were times that I wanted to offer when he didn’t need it.  But I let him decide what he wanted- what he needed- and trusted he would find his way.  I trusted him to find our way.

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Now, I’ll admit that I boarder on control freak (who am I kidding, I am a total control freak but I can’t really admit that because it sounds horrible… but this is Real) and because of this, I have a hard time letting my kids decide what’s best for them.  Of course you have to wear a hat, it’s 30 degrees outside!  You need to fill out your reading journal!  Take two more bites of breakfast!  Finish your milk!  Now what if we treated them like… humans?  Humans who are capable of making decisions for themselves.  I know I am making a huge leap here but if letting a near-three year old decide when he’s done nursing has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t give our children far enough credit for knowing what they need and when they need it.  We make so many decisions for them.  And some of them are necessary but are they all…?  I am not so sure anymore.

For some of you reading this, you may be welcoming me to the room: you’ve already made a decision to raise your kids this way.  To some, the idea of letting your kids make autonomous choices may seem ridiculous.  To the latter group, try to entertain this idea.  I’m still totally forcing my kids to wear their seatbelts, brush their teeth and use their manners but if they choose not to wear a hat, maybe I will let them (and shove it in my purse to hand off when they start to cry that their ears are cold) or maybe I will allow them to leave the table without finishing breakfast… they will be hungry but they won’t die.  Maybe they would make a better choice the next morning.

I don’t pretend to know where to draw that line and I am in no way telling you how to raise your kiddos.  But what I am saying is that our children are crazy smart.  They know what they are doing more of the time than we acknowledge.  Consider this.  My three year old clung to my breast until he slowly decided he didn’t need it anymore.  And then he was done.  On his terms.  I let go of the control.  And it worked out really well.  Bye, bye Booby.  Hello Independence.

Peace, Mamas.

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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.

Sunday Reset: Vomit Talk

End of another week.  My posts haven’t been as frequent due to round 411 of this fucking stomach bug.  Seriously.  My middle dude seems to pick it up more than anyone else.  So he’s had it twice in the last week.  Just when I start to think we are getting through this…  Mama…?  It’s coming.  Racing up the stairs, clutching his body, turning to head back down the stairs and…  Yup.  All over me.  In my hair.  Dripping down the stairs.  Oh my God.  What the hell just happened?  While husband is showering Mooch, Mama has now stripped and is cleaning up some of the vilest vomit with diluted vinegar –because some idiot (ugh, me) decided it would be a good idea to break up with the Clorox.  Idiot.  While I am cursing myself out for that stupid decision, near-naked, I realize I have quite a night ahead of me.  My prediction was dead-on.

So I think we are in the clear and three days over again: Hello, Vomit!  Missed you so!  This time the stairs were safe however, the carpet and sheets took a hit.  Not in my hair- but in his and just on the shoulder of my shirt.  Only for the rest of the day, I can smell throw up.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Where you know you catch a whiff and then you start sniffing like a lunatic trying to locate some shred of evidence to support the stench?  I’m not the only one who does this, right?  Right…?  But then you don’t smell it anymore.  Life goes on.  And all of a sudden, while playing the 506th game of Connect Four, I get the whiff again.  Pulling out my own shirt, I locate the source: a dime-sized chunk of vomit stuck to the inside of my sports bra (yes, I’m still wearing the same one from last night, no I have not showered and no you can’t  judge me).  What the fuck.   This is my life.

Now this may all seem very gross to you- even if you have kids.  But I bet you can relate.  And if you don’t have children, well, I should apologize because after reading that you may not ever want them.  But if you have stuck with me thus far, keep reading.

All of this throw up and lost sleep, carpet cleaner, laundry and scrubbing also brings some good stuff too.  Like watching them sleep.  (Okay, I’ll admit it, I am obsessed.)  In addition to swearing slow and painful torture on the culprit who wakes said child, I get the privilege to witness their peace- the steady rise and fall of their chest, those soft pink lips, the sweaty little palms holding tight to your own.  The gentle flicks of their eyelids.  Staring, searching their faces for hints of change or age; memorizing every contour of that plump chin and those fleshy, warm cheeks.  It’s bliss.  And then comes the upchuck of bile and the acidic remnants of last nights dinner.  Instant replay.

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It’s in these moments of bliss that I realize two things (1) They are fleeting and (2) I’m actually really patient and kind when helping my children through incredibly stressful, terrible situations (getting barfed on is about as bad as it gets…) yet in those times of normal stress, I kind of suck.  The annoyances of every day life seem to, well, annoy me the most.  Those ridiculous noises, the random yells, repetition of song lyrics, whining, not listening and sluggishness when it’s time to get out the door.  If I can deal with vomit in my hair (and in my fricken bra for half the day) why can’t I deal with the little shit?  Good question.

I need to be more patient.  I need to dig deep.  This week, I shall.  One week from tomorrow, I leave my children for four days.  Leaving on a jet plane to Denver for work.  I’m going to miss them terribly.  And I know they will miss me.  This week, before I go, I am making it count.  I am going to give them my ultimate patience.  And I’m sure you’ll hear about it.  How hard it is, how I may fail but how hard I am going to to try.  As I was reminded recently by a friend, I need to rediscover the No Yell Challenge.  It is really hard.  But it’s really important.  Join me.  It will be far less repulsive then vomit in your bra.

Peace, Mamas.

Mama Gets Bus Chucked

Last week, part of celebrating the fifth birthday of my Mooch included a trip to the pediatrician.

Dr. Land: What is your favorite thing to play?

Mooch: Video games.

Dr. Land: What is your favorite food?

Mooch: Donuts.

Dr. Land: Do you wear your seat belt every time you are in the car?

Mooch: Yup.  But sometimes I just have to remind my mom.

Oh shit.  Kid chucked Mama under the bus.

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Mama Project: Dirt

Today the sun shone.  It felt particularly essential because on this afternoon, my grandparents’ house was sold.  I desperately needed the brightness of the sky to lift me from despair today.  On May 22, 2012, my grandmother, the center of my family died after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  One year ago today, she was alive.  And I never imagined that the hole she’d leave would seem so deep, so painful, so hallow.  Their home was a gathering point for holidays, meals, visits, family, laughter.  So many of my most fond memories from childhood are in that house or yard.  This morning, I took a long walk in her yard, chased my own children around the sandy, grassy space.  Watched them lean against the fence, look up at the planes overhead just as I had done for the last 31 years of my life.  Both my grandmother and grandfather were given the gift and privilege of passing on within the walls of their home, in the comfort of their bed, with the strength of family around.  It’s hard to think of them anywhere else.  So it’s difficult to fight the abandonment aching in my throat.

I cling to the items she once touched.  Smelling blankets, cradling her coffee mug, running my hand over a piano stool, watering a plant.  All these items, once hers are now all I have left.  There are no words.  Just deep sadness tonight.  An era in my life has ended.  This afternoon, I took the time to watch my children play in our yard.

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These short moments seem all the better today. A little bitter-sweet but better. It sounds cliche to say that this was surreal.  So surreal.  One day, many, many years from now, their children may walk my yard.  And hopefully, the same feeling of comfort will pass over them.  Peace Mamas.