Notes from the Underground

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again many, many times, but we don’t spend nearly enough time telling people about the responsibility of raising humans. You get married, you’re happy (maybe), have more time and disposable income than you even realize (maybe), and then you get the baby itch (or society makes you feel like a wretched, selfish asshole and you cave) and a few months later, you are knocked up and wandering around Buy Buy Baby with a registry gun, arguing with your spouse about what kind of nipples you should register for.

Someone probably throws you an adorable party with cookie shaped like onsies or rattles, someone (likely the gay uncle) gives you a $500 cashmere blanket your kid will NEVER be allowed to touch, and you spend your evenings folding and refolding tiny clothes and sitting in an empty nursery thinking about your forthcoming bundle of joy. At this point we are at least 8 months into this whole thing and still NO ONE has so much as mentioned that your baby will not stay a baby. You’re inundated with questions about natural childbirth vs. an evil and completely unnatural (eyeroll) medicated birthing experience, what kind of nipples you registered for (BECAUSE THIS MATTERS A LOT), and whether you’re going to be gender specific with your new born (eyes rolling so far back in my head they may be stuck).

Then, it’s about your boobs. Strangers asking about your plans for feeding your child. Suddenly you feel like a capitalistic satan for registering for nipples in the first place when you’re obviously going to breast feed your child until he is using a sippy cup (or at least pretend you are so some wealthy organic wheatgrass farmer with nine children who have never had the flu doesn’t shame you in line at the Whole Foods).

Then it’s happening. YOUR BABY IS BEING BORN. You have a beautiful hospital bag with silk pajamas and snacks in it waiting next to the door. Your husband is whispering encouraging words to your unborn child before the three of you drift off to sleep. And in the middle of the night you soak your brand new mattress with enough amniotic fluid to sink the Titanic and the moment has arrived.

Still. No one has mentioned that your baby will not stay a baby. No one says, “hey, you. Babies are fleeting. Humans are forever.” In fact, the ASPCA likely spends more time reminding folks that puppies become dogs than the universe does reminding us that babies become people.

And become people they do. Infancy is hard. It’s physically straining, emotionally demanding, and it makes you question all the things you thought you were good at. But babies live in tiny warm bubbles. You can control every single thing about an infant except the infant itself. There’s almost no limit to what you can protect an infant from. (Save dying from something horrible because the anti-vaxxers are a bunch of Satanists. Oh, hey, Measles in Europe.)

But humans are harder. At some point you realize that your child doesn’t need you to get from breath to breath. They need you to help them navigate the universe and understand humanity. They start to need answers from you that you don’t have. And you can’t just stick a boob in their mouth and make everything okay. (Until they are about 17. Then a boob [NOT YOURS] may do the trick again.)

Little humans are a special kind of mind fuck. We have one at home currently. He’s not an infant. He’s not a toddler. He believes he has some kind of master insight and reason about the world and he is totally wrong. But it doesn’t change how he feels. He feels massive injustices are being done to him on a daily basis. (Nope, you can’t watch TV. Nope, we aren’t going to wear the same shirt for 16 days. It’s growing mold. Nope, you’re not allowed to take that in the car.)

But he’s also beginning to experience real emotions that we can’t control. Exclusion. Loneliness. Uncertainty. Jealously. Emotions that even now, as adults, we don’t fully understand. He wants to know why someone said something hurtful or why someone wouldn’t play with him. As a parent, your first reaction is to light the school on fire or hunt down the 3-year-old that hurt their feelings. But you have to take a step back. You have to understand that human emotions are complicated and necessary. And if you don’t allow them to feel these things, to try to work through them, they will become emotionally stunted fuck heads when they are older.

The world is moving a lot faster than it did when I was a kid. We could blame it on technology, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story. It’s just a different world. It’s more connected, while simultaneously being completely disconnected. We have more access than ever, but things also seem strangely inaccessible. Kids are shepherded out of childhood more quickly to give them more time to be adults. More time to excel and be accomplished grown ups. As a parent, I can’t help but feel like that’s misguided. If there is anything about my life I wish I could have extended, it would be my childhood. It would be those years before boys and college– and certainly my twenties– when long, hot days were spent cellphone-free at the pool, ordering chicken fingers and playing Marco Polo. It’s easy to idealize our memories, but I don’t think I’m crazy to believe that the less I knew, the easier it was to be happy.

There’s not a Buy Buy Baby for these years. There’s no registry list for those years when the things you tell your children impact the way they see the world, or the kinds of humans they start to become. These days, I laugh at the tough choices we made between the UppaBaby and whatever the other option was. Because how I pushed my child around the city seems a much easier choice than how I teach my child not to push others. Curating a nursery, though necessary and fun, seems to have overshadowed the time when my husband and I should have talked through the kind of human we wanted to raise and our plan and path to get there.

How do you raise a good human? Or can you? I don’t know. When you drop them off, move them in, or give them away, how will you ever know that you’ve made the right choices or shown them the right things? How can you be sure that they will go forth with confidence, humility, and a sense of what is right and wrong?

Maybe you can’t. But it’s worth trying.

 

Parenting is a Poo Smear

I cannot be clearer than this: three year olds are the worst.

The. Worst.

On the one hand, they are so cute. At three, you have a tiny person, wearing tiny adult clothes. They have these insanely observant, candid things to say. They make you laugh. You starting thinking things like, “obviously my kid is a mother fucking genius. he just figured out how to drain the tub.”

Then there’s the other hand. The torturous, deformed, hateful hand. You have an irrational, unthinking, selfish asshole with a seniority complex and zero regard for your life or feelings. And frankly, that’s being kind. Three year olds play sick mind games. They have the guilt skills of seasoned Jewish mother, the yelling prowess of an Italian mother, and mood disorders too severe to make it into any of Ken Kesey novels.

My three year old seems to fall in the moderate three year old category, which is really hard to fathom. Because about two months ago I made a special appointment with my therapist to tell him– through barely manageable tears– that I needed to go on a mood stabilizer. I had an undiagnosed rage disorder. I didn’t know what to do.

Nope, he said. You have a three year old.

I tried to reason with him, convince him that his years of school were shit. A serious rage disorder was sitting in front of him and he couldn’t see it. GO BACK TO GRAD SCHOOL, IDIOT. Then he started listing the traits of three year olds.

I definitely do not have a rage disorder. I have a three year old. (Never mind! Your degree is fine. I’m an asshole. Sorry.)

Looking back on the magical journey of pregnancy and infancy, I realize that we (mothers, fathers, society) are focused on the totally wrong part of parenting. Infants are cake. I mean, not cake. They are terrible in their own special way. But the whole world loves babies. AND THEY DON’T TALK. Babies are irrational, but it’s okay because they are flesh blobs. Dolls. Plants with neurons and foul poops. It’s when our babies turn two until they turn about five, that we are left ALL ALONE. Unless you’re looking for some help with the functional parts of parenting (i.e. teach your kid to poop in a receptacle), 2-5 are the parenting dark ages. Your kid is really too young for actual labels (it’s too soon to say whether he’s really a psychopath) and too old to know whether he’s just experiencing something epic, like seeing color for the first time. Which makes him “fussy.” God I miss “fussy.” Fussy was so cute. Last night my kid cried so hard about a sticker that he gagged himself and we had to break our silence to make sure he wasn’t dead.

Logically, I know that my job is to survive. Realistically, there are days when survival seems impossible. I’m going to pack an old school suitcase and hop a bus to Nevada, where I’ll send faded postcards cross country at holidays. My days will be spent journaling and working odd jobs, my evenings drinking white wine out of a box and questioning whether I made the right choice. I’ll return for his high school graduation. The aged, but slightly beautiful, gray-haired woman in the back row. He’ll stare at me, unsure, but feeling a familiarity he can’t shake. I’ll see he’s grown into the man I imagined. And I’ll return to Nevada. To my journalling. To my Franzia. With hope. And closure.

Only I can’t do that. Because my husband would hunt me down in Nevada and kill me. Then marry a casino dancer and drag her to Salem to watch Author. Fuck.

So here we are. Surviving.

Strangely, as trying as these little people can be, you actually love them a whole lot. In the middle of psychological warfare about picking up a goddamned Rescue Bot, you’re still obsessing about their day, where you should send them to school, whether they’re making friends, if they ate their lunch. The real kick in the dick is that 99% of the time, if your kid would just stop screaming like a crazy person and ask politely for something absurd, he’d probably get it. Instead of throwing a spoon at my face and telling me how I’m torturing you with dinner, you could try saying, “mups, I love you so much. but the flavor profile of this meal just isn’t working. could I please have a bowl of sugared cereal and nine gummy vitamins.” I’d say yes. How could I not?

We’re American parents. We can’t help ourselves. We’re capitalists and consumers.

This morning, my child smeared actual poo on my bed. Fortunately it was on my husband’s side of the bed, but that’s not really the point. His tiny brain FORGOT that he walked up the stairs WITH A HANDFUL OF WIPES because he needed help wiping the epic amounts of shit off his ass… and sat down. Proceeded to have an entire conversation with me about how he wasn’t going to get dressed today. I even asked about the wipes. He couldn’t remember. He just “sort of picked them up.”

He forgot the ending, which was “… to have you wipe all this poop off of me before I smear it on the bed.”

Poop.

On. My. Bed.

Then, when I realized the situation and reacted like super mom, he turned on me. Getting dressed was the worst idea he’d ever heard of in his whole life. He would not do it. Ever. He threw his body on the ground and writhed like a crazy person. I just stared down at him in disbelief. I just extracted fecal matter from you and MY BED and now you are YELLING AT ME. 

What the actual fuck? <Cue the rage disorder I thought I had. But don’t. I have a three year old.>

But there’s good news. We are 156 days away from his fourth birthday.

I ruined you before 3.

Hey, kid. One day you’re going to learn stuff about your childhood that I’m sure you’re going to insist I explain to you. Things you’re certain ruined you, and you’ll probably be right, and I’ll have lost the sharp clarity of my reasoning over the years. So I figure I should write it all down now. Save us both the heartache.

Ruining you didn’t take long. By all accounts, I’d completely fucked you up by three. I didn’t wait until you were a vulnerable teen. I did it young, when you were still too young to ever have a chance.

This morning I read an article about how screen time is going to turn you into a homicidal junkie. Those hours I let you watch Finding Nemo and play that bug game that keeps you happy and quiet while I have a glass of wine and try to connect with my husband, it’s ruined you. You’re going to turn into an antisocial dick with no interaction skills. You’ll never date. You most certainly won’t ever have sex. Your father and I will house you and your collection of black socks and vintage Nintendo sets in our basement until you are imprisoned for life for a crime that could have been avoided if I just didn’t give you that screen. So I’m sorry about that.

Also, you have a TV in your room. You probably don’t want to hear the speech about how our house isn’t huge and there is only so much kid space and we wanted your room to be a place that kids could hang out, play, watch movies, AND STAY OUT OF THE ADULTS WAY WHILE WE TRIED TO TALK, but I can see how that doesn’t matter. We never should have put that TV in your room. If I’d have known it would keep you from getting your first job out of college, I’d obviously have made a different decision.

I stopped breastfeeding at nine months. You wont get into medical school because of it. I tried to make it okay by buying your formula direct from Germany, but I can understand how that seems like a cop out. What I should have done was continue to pump. Which I did. After that first 4-day-stay in the hospital with 5 clogged ducts, I kept after it. I hooked myself up to that machine for another six months, but in the end I couldn’t take it much longer. I was working these insane 12 hour days and commuting and you were spending so much time with the nanny. When I got home, I had to go straight to pumping instead of hanging out with you, so I stopped. Obviously I’ll write whatever letters to admissions offices on your behalf, but in the end, the damage is done. You’ll likely amount to nothing because of my selfish decision.

Let’s talk about your blanket. I read a study the other day about how kids with blankets after infancy are actually just emotionally crippled. They lack internal coping skills and can’t fully develop into productive adults. Women find these kind of men repulsive, which leads to feelings of sexual inadequacy. That wasn’t my intention. You love that damn blanket and its gotten you through some tough times. That blanket had you sleeping through the night at 3 weeks old. And when your dad and I had to leave you with strangers for 12-hours-a-day, your daycare report always said that you were happy and social as long as blanket was there. It may be hard to understand, but at the time we wanted you to feel safe and happy. We weren’t thinking about you as a sexually frustrated and socially ostracized adult. And that was short sighted. We should have taken away your blanket and left you there alone. What dumb, naive, first-time parents we were.

I don’t allow your toys out of your room. You’re not allowed to drag endless amounts of kid shit around the house, marking our whole house as yours. I’ve heard a lot of parents and therapists talk about how this will stifle your creativity. Your inability to adequately spread your thoughts around the house will lead you to be a CPA. God knows I didn’t want to raise a financial planner, but I needed to maintain something for myself. When you’re chained to your desk at tax season, cursing my name, I’ll understand. I should have known better. I should have given you more.

On your first birthday, I gave you real cake. It wasn’t made with applesauce or mashed potatoes. It was cake. Out of a box. I sprinkled it with cancer and type two diabetes and set it in front of you like the lousy parent that I am. I wanted to see you smash it and taste it and get super excited about the sugar rush. (Which you did.) But that was a silly memory. A moment in time that wasn’t worth poisoning you against beets and steamed broccoli. I never should have done it. But I did. And it’s done.

I let you drink a lot of juice. Not from concentrate or with sugar added, but juice nonetheless. In the morning I let you have green juice and after school I even let you drink chocolate milk. You eat about 16lbs of green vegetables a day, but those don’t matter. This isn’t about moderation, it’s about the shame and guilt I should feel for giving you juice. So let’s stay focused on that.

I bought you stuff and said yes when I was too tired to say no. So you won’t have a healthy relationship with material goods.

I was honest with you about money from the time you could talk. So you’ll obviously have a childhood riddled with anxiety and concern over the cost burden you add. Then be a hoarder.

I put you in timeout a lot. And let you cry. One time I even shut the bathroom door so I wouldn’t have to listen to your INSANE screaming. But I’ve since read that it causes you shame and you’ll never be able to express yourself emotionally. So, again, I’m sorry.

I referred to you by your gender. A boy. You had a penis so we went with it. You’re welcome to change your mind later, but frankly it was too confusing to try to wait it out and it seemed cruel to call you “it.” I can see now how narrow minded and confining that choice can seem, but yellow is my least favorite color and, at the time, you seemed just fine being a boy.

The list of things I did to ruin you is so long that I could go on forever. And anything I’ve forgotten will pop up in my inbox or newsfeed. Tomorrow I’ll get an article about what I did wrong or how I ruined you in a new way. I know we’re using the wrong sunscreen, bath products, toothpaste. We don’t eat enough organic and I think you had something with red dye in it last week. I’ve let your shoes get too tight, I once used real detergent instead of the eco-shit (that doesn’t work) because I’d just spent $36 on a shirt and you immediately got watermelon on it. I drank beer while I was pregnant. I ate sushi. I yelled loudly while I was pushing, so your entrance wasn’t the silent sanctuary that many psychologist believe is best.

But, kid, I swear to God we love you. I promise you that every day we wake up wanting to make you better, even if that means doing the hard work of making ourselves better. We are human, and we’ve fucked up many, many times, but the road is long. Someday you’ll love someone so much you’ll ruin them too. And I only hope I’m still around so we can have a beer and laugh about how hard it is to love someone so much.

 

I’m working out, y’all.

*If you give zero fucks about learning about these damn Kayla Itsines guides, or you are in peak physical condition, this post will likely not entertain you. 

So I’ve been obnoxiously posting pictures to Instagram that chronicle my completed #bbg workouts. You’re welcome for that. (At least I’m not selling <insert thing people are selling all over my fucking Facebook feed>.) But here’s the thing…

Fitness people are crazy supportive of one another. I mean, I get it. They’re all hopped up on endorphins and being thin and strong and can’t help but love the shit out of one another, but it’s still a surprise. You post a picture of the human life you created and six people “like” it and one person comments. You post a picture of your fat, sweaty self after doing a terrible 28 minute workout and 26239 people come out of the woodwork to tell you what a badass you are. It’s motivating.  And, frankly, I need it.

I haven’t reported much on the weight loss journey since my ohholyfuckiamsofat post from last summer, but the journey does continue. Through various means I managed to knock about 17lbs off. No small feat, but also kind of a drop in the fat kid bucket. I’m out of Kirstie Alley territory, but I’m certainly not ordering new bikinis. (Let’s be honest, I’ll never be ordering new bikinis.)

It was actually back when I first reported about my Stage Five Fatitude that a friend mentioned Kayla Itsines and the #bbg (Bikini Body Guides). I dutifully paid my $60 or whatever and downloaded the workouts. I even read through them a couple of times while watching TV or making dinner. They certainly LOOKED effective, but I couldn’t speak to that directly, as I never actually DID any of them.

When the Sweat with Kayla app came out and I was offered another opportunity to do the exact same work outs I already paid for, but for additional money, I was like, “yes! sign me up!” I did the 7 day free trial, which didn’t deter me nearly as much as I imagined, and then started paying my $19.99/month. Because why not pay $20 a month to jump around like an asshole in your bedroom?

Here’s what you need to know, in no particular order:

  • There are three resistance workouts, three cardio, and two recovery a week. (Though that’s kind of a lie because the app has me repeat one workout a week.) Resistance workouts are broken up into Abs & Arms (single workout), Legs, and Full Body. In order:
    • Arms & Abs are the most manageable for me. I generally don’t feel like vomiting, I have some success, and feel appropriately tired after.
    • Full Body is the second most challenging, namely because there are always burpees, which are what Satan does when he wakes up in the morning.
    • Legs. Last time I did legs I went downstairs to get water after and fell down the stairs. So there you have it.
  • I am horribly and offensively out of shape. My physical appearance, as poor as it may be, is actually making it appear that I am MORE in shape that I am. It takes me approximately 11 seconds to get out of breath.
  • Even though paying for something you already paid for sounds like a really dumb idea, the PDF version of the workouts can’t force me to work out like the app can. The app basically says “you have to do this today” and then turns on a timer and I have no choice. The PDF was more like my friend who said she’d jog with me, but actually meant she’d smoke pot and each cheesy curls on the couch.
  • Because the workouts are by week and are the same across the program, you can “work out with your friends” (i.e. do a work out in EST and then text your friend in the PST about how terrible it is before she even wakes up).
  • There’s a nutrition guide that people really love, but that I basically ignore. Clearly this woman doesn’t live in New England. She eats kiwis and mangoes. Most New Englanders don’t even know those two words. But it seems to be a reasonable diet plan focused on nutrients and not calories.
  • You need minimal “gear.” I already had some weights, which are needed, and it appears that a medicine ball is in my future. (But you can also get creative… fill a milk jug with nails or something.)
  • Oh and a jump rope. Which may also mean a box of Depends…
  • Each work out is two circuits. You do the first circuit as many times as you can in seven minutes and then do the same with circuit two. And then repeat. All in it’s 28 (7×4) minutes of working out. It’s up to you to modify or slow your pace so you don’t die.
  • If at any point you feel angry and sad, you can hop on my friend Kayla’s Instagram account and look at all the people who are doing these workouts and look like fit little wood nymphs. (Including moms who look WRECKED in their before pictures. Which is double motivation.)
  • Overall the app is a mediocre user experience, but it performs its main function well: shows you the workout and times you.

The real reason I seem to be enduring these terrible workouts is because they make me feel really good. In less than two weeks I feel stronger and I think I look better. As bad as any one workout gets, it’s only seven minutes and then I can do something else. And while there have been times I’ve cursed everything in my presence, I didn’t quit. I kept going, just trying to make it to the buzzer. (There’s actually a buzzer on the app. It’s very exciting.) Plus it’s only 28 minutes. You can’t excuse yourself from 28 minutes. (Well you can. But then you’re just being lazy.)

It’s bad, but it’s not so bad. And I’m doing it. Which is more than I can say about anything else. Like I said, there’s a 7 day free trial on the app, so you can always give it a spin and decide whether it’s your cup of tea. If you do, be sure you tell me so I can bitch with you via text.

My kid was a nightmare. And other true stories.

Happy 4th. (Yesterday.) I was on social media channels a few times. I saw a bunch of adorable kids in gingham and stripes watching parades and looking American and perfect.

My kid was awful. Just terrible. He made a three-day-weekend seem like a prison sentence. By Saturday afternoon things were fragile. Sunday evening my marriage was starting to fray. And when we finally reached Monday night, everyone had to retreat to their respective corners so there was no bloodshed. It is a wonder to behold how a single 37 inch person can fuck things up so thoroughly.

The good news (if that’s how we want to categorize it) is that this appears to be age associated and completely predictable. Late two/early threes are notorious for their shittiness. Unfortunately, no amount of warning can adequately prepare you for the psychological and emotional damage that a toddler can exact over a three-day-weekend.

What I struggle with the most is actually how much I struggle. I’m 32 years old. I am a fully grown human being. I have pretty well developed coping skills. I’m good with conflict resolution. I have sound logic and reasoning skills. And my toddler gives ZERO fucks. If my husband and I had a dollar for every time the phrase “walk away. just walk away.” was uttered in our house, we could both retire. And yet for all our chanting walkawaywalkawaywalkawaywalkawaywalkawaywalkaway we can’t actually walk away. We’re locked in some intellectual death match with a tot. I’ve experience more logical and redemptive communication with cats.

And the stubbornness. Oh sweet lord the stubbornness. This is why people of the olden days resorted to physical acts of violence. Because it takes an incredibly well controlled and evolved human being to get to the brink of sanity and not be overcome with the urge to exert physical force over a lesser being. And I’m not even talking about beatings. Even just a well placed flick. Because when your child tells you for the 2736974120382039 time that they WILL NOT CLEAN UP their blocks and you’ve wasted 682 minutes of your day asking, and you’ve taken away everything you thought they held dear, and you’ve reasoned, begged, yelled, threatened and there are still mother fucking blocks all over the floor… your ability to keep your shit together is questionable. Worse than that, when you’ve sacrificed your plans, your desires, your activities in order to do the activity that should most appeal to your child and then they act like a domestic terrorist, you begin to question the very meaning of life.

We’re currently in the stage whereby all perceived offenses are of equal weight in his eyes. Not having the right color juice is as egregious an offense as refusing to allow him to play in the hose or trying to give him away. (Just listing the kinds of things that brought our weekend to its proverbial knees is giving me PTSD.) There’s usually a light whimper, followed by the introduction of a baby voice, which then becomes a fake machine gun cry, that then devolves into a full on melt down. (And then usually one of us walking swiftly out of a public place while our child confirms to single people within earshot that they are the superior species.) The single most terrifying thing about three year olds is that the truest and quickest way to incite a meltdown is to give them EXACTLY what they want. What? What is this you say? Yes. Exactly. Give them exactly what they want and they will most certainly meltdown. Because they hate you.

For example. Aut has been totally into bike riding recently. (We got one of those bike seats that you get when you have a child under 4 and you no longer care about how uncool your life is.) Generally speaking, he loves riding around on the back of the bike, going fun places, seeing new things. So we planned on an awesome bike ride on Monday. We were going to bike up to Marblehead and stare through the gates of yacht clubs at rich people. We told him… and he melted down. He didn’t want to bike ride. Turns out, he’d found a long-forgotten set of paints in his cubby and all he wanted to do in the whole world was paint. (Painting is a cruel invention by people who hate parents.) After much hmming and hawing, we consented. He could paint outside. In his underwear.

We went outside. It was beautiful out. We set up a drop cloth, staple gunned a canvas to the fence, got out the paints and brushes, slathered sunscreen on him. And feeling like THE BEST PARENTS IN THE WHOLE WORLD we set him loose on his artistic endeavors. Which lasted about 14 seconds.

The sun is too sunny and it’s on my head. We got him a baseball cap.

I need something different for my eyes. (Because THE BRIM OF THE HAT WAS NOT SUFFICIENT.) We got him his sunglasses.

I’m thirsty. We made him hold out but eventually realized this was not the one to nail him on when it was 90 degrees outside. Got him water.

I need different paints. Go fuck yourself.

I want to paint on the fence. Not on your life.

I need to wipe my hands. Shouldn’t have stuck both hands in the paint.

I want to do yoga with Mups. No, you’re painting.

I want to cut all my fingers off in the air conditioner compressor. Nope. [wailing]

I don’t like painting. Well, too bad. We got this all set up. You’re gonna paint. [more wailing]

I need a snack. We just had breakfast. You’re fine. [repeated slower and screaming I. NEED. A. SNACK.]

The sun is too hot. Sorry, we’ll talk to the solar system about that.

I need Buzz Lightyear. Buzz is napping upstairs. [whimpering, but surprisingly no wailing]

I really want to stick my entire hand into the A/C compressor. Ask me again and I’ll probably let you.

I need to go into the basement to get something. No you don’t. [full-on, mind blowing meltdown]

I want to go for a bike ride. You’re dead to me.

I don’t want to exaggerate, so I’ll say this was all within the span of about 11 minutes. Conservatively I’d say six tantrums and one meltdown in 11 minutes. Because we were doing exactly what he begged us to let him do.

And like I said, the very worst part is how ill prepared we are to cope. It’s impossible to ignore, but equally as impossible to correct. Stupidly I allow myself to imagine these scenarios whereby we’re doing these things happily and peacefully as a family. The hubs is drinking coffee on the porch, I’m doing yoga on the driveway, Aut is painting like the gifted painter we will joyfully discover he is. But it’s never anything like that. It’s screaming and whining and trying not to lose our shit at how unbelievably insufferable he can make 15 minutes in the sunshine. And then the guilt when he says something like “why do you always yell?” And I feel so terrible but I also want to be like “why do you always try to make me insane?” But I know he’s 3 and he doesn’t know why he does it. He just does. And my job as his mother is to cope. And get through it.

And I don’t want to wish his life away. I don’t want him to grow up too fast. And inevitably there’s some gray haired woman (as there was this weekend) who says “enjoy every moment” at exactly the wrong time. And I get it. I know she’s wistful and hindsight is rosey. But these moments are not enjoyable. They’re trying and terrible. They make you question yourself. They push you to dark places where you have to look hard at yourself. And that’s an unexpectedly difficult part of parenting– seeing yourself through your child’s eyes. Because every now and then, you won’t like the person you see. But this too shall pass. And tantrums about paints and Buzz Lightyear will be replaced by heartbreak and humiliation and things that will make us long for the days that the absence of Buzz was the most meltdown-worth part of the day.

But for now, we cope. We parent. We continue onward. Knowing they won’t be 3 forever… for better or worse.

Author Paints
A brief moment of happiness and reprieve. 

 

 

Find the happy, goddammit.

I went to spin yesterday. I hate spinning. There is not a moment– from the time I start pedaling until the last stretch on that godforsaken bike– that I am not miserable and angry. It’s just one of those things. I’ve tried the FlyWheels and the SoulCycles, the local places, and the classes at fancy gyms and shitty gyms. It’s not a class issue, it’s a sitting on a bike issue. It uses all the parts of my body that I try to keep still. I hate it so much. Just talking about it makes me more hateful. But I go. (Occasionally.) I went yesterday.

For a couple of weeks now, maybe bleeding into months, I’ve been… unsettled. I’ve been impatient and frustrated. I feel angry and constricted by simple things. I’m easily overwhelmed and anxious. I’ve gone from taking a Xanax once a month to taking one just to get into the car and make the drive to work. Traffic makes me insane. I keep thinking I need to do something, but I don’t know what. Maybe my medication needs to be looked at, maybe the weather needs to start behaving, maybe I need to change my diet– I’ve gone through all the possibilities in my head, and I keep coming back to the same thing. This is life. This is what it’s like (for me) to be 32, a mother, a full-time employee, a wife, a person who recently really hates cooking dinner. The older I get, the more knowledge I have and instead of being set free by all the knowledge, I’m crippled by it. I know too much about savings and retirement, interest rates, education, natural disasters (NEVER MOVING TO OREGON), job security, the vague possibility that my child will be killed by 100,000,000 random and statistically insignificant incidences. I spend so much time trying to look breezy and carefree when what I want to do is crawl in bed and eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of the box. (Because THAT is a fucking life plan.)

Don’t even get me started on getting old. I see the writing on the wall. Our society does not care about old people. We are scared and burdened by old people. Unless you have a private– fully paid for– private island or a couple million dollars in the bank, good luck getting old. I could stay in bed for six weeks just obsessing about how terrible it is going to be to be 65-years-old and still working full time because there is no way I can ever retire. EVER. (Cue screaming.) I could depend on my son to care for me in my old age, except for two things. 1. I don’t believe in burdening your children with your winter years 2. There’s just no guarantee I’m going to want to spend my last good years in the basement of my son’s house. What if he lives in a hovel and I hate his wife? (Or husband.)

But what now? How do you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and tell all your knowledge-based anxiety to fuck off? How do you live in the moment and not allow the creeping weight of death and responsibility to give you a panic attack in the shower? Being present is so fucking hard. It’s scary. But it’s also the only thing there actually is. Aut is only 2.75. He is not 3 or 7 or 35. He is only 2.75. And that will pass, but it will pass as quickly and as slowly as everything else. Because time only has one pace. Time is a bitch, but she’s fair. Almost to a fault.

So we’re back at spin. I forgot my shoes and there was a sub and because I’ve turned into an anxious time bomb, those things were enough to put me into a tailspin. The teacher was talking about beach bodies and pedaling so we can eat whatever we want and I’m getting angrier and angrier. I’m anxious and angry and annoyed and my shoes are wrong and this woman will not stop talking about bikini bodies, which is so far from my reality that I want to throw my $4 Starbucks bottled water at her face. But I keep pedaling. And I try to “find the happy.” (I’m actually on my bike, my body vibrating because the music is SO LOUD, and saying aloud “find the happy, Caroline. Find the fucking happy.”) And then it hit a boiling point. I looked at the clock and it wasn’t even halfway through class. I was going to die and explode and I hadn’t even made it halfway through class.

I slowed my pedaling and took a deep breath and asked myself (again, outloud), “what, Caroline? What is the big problem?” And the tiny voice in my head was sad and scared and she said “I don’t know. That’s the problem. I don’t know.” And then I started to cry. And cry. And cry.

I pedaled and cried and pedaled and cried. I climbed the hills and cried a little harder (because it was both self pity crying and just general crying). I cried because I felt so relieved and so silly and so annoyed and free. And then class ended.

If this story were about a different person, I’d be like “and then I walked outside and the sun was shining and I took a deep breath and felt completely renewed.” But it’s not. And when I walked outside it was raining and the barista at Starbucks fucked up my tea. So there was that reality. (Which I realize is nothing like, say, a third world or Syrian refugee reality.)

Here’s what did happen, though. I went to spin. And I finished. And I cried. And then I drove home and I started dinner. (I even cared enough to text a friend about how to cook my fish properly.) I still wanted to go to bed at 8PM, but I didn’t. (I waited until like 10:30.) I got out of my own way and my own head for a few hours and tried to enjoy myself. I made an effort. It wasn’t an overwhelming success, but, like spin class, it was an effort. Which is a start.

And nothing can begin that was never begun. Or something to that effect.

 

 

Potting training is a literal pile of shit.

Well, this weekend is going to be excluded from my memoirs.

Aut woke up on Saturday morning with a trucker-sized dump in his pants and the husband drew the short straw. It’s nearly impossible to sleep an extra two hours while your child watches inappropriate television shows in your bed if the child smells like poop. Eventually one of the parents has to sack up and change the diaper, and whomever gets stuck doing it ends feeling exempt from doing anything else childcare related for the rest of the day.

Usually we grumble about how terrible and inhumane it is that our child unleashes that kind of fury upon us first thing in the morning, but eventually we get over it and go have coffee and bagel sandwiches to make everything okay again. Not this Saturday. This Saturday, the husband marches up the stairs and declares, with the confidence of a Custer before his last stand, that he has changed his final diaper. THIS IS BULLSHIT. I am done! 

To be clear (and because he reads these posts and immediately sends me all caps text messages when he thinks I’ve painted him unfairly), I was not against the potty training. But I was committed in the same way you commit to a going on a diet with a friend when you can tell her entire commitment depends on you. You say yes, you have some fruit for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and by dinner you know that her self esteem will have risen just enough that you can both face plant into some tacos and Corona…light. I made some off-handed comment about how we would have to go to Target and then we’d have to pay attention to our kid all.day.long, and none of those things deterred him. Never again was he going to wipe shit from another human ass. So off we went to Target.

When Aut was about 18 months old we were those asshole parents who bought like 14 training potties because our gifted child was going to potty train himself before he could speak and we wanted to make sure he had the most appropriate, butt contouring surface on which to do that. So we didn’t have to get a potty at Target. Whew. What we did have to get were two packages of training pants– one with Mickey Mouse Club ALL OVER THEM, and another with all the different super hero logos.

Rather than read anything or ask any experts, we pieced together a “plan” based on hearsay and random bits of information we were pretty sure we got from other people with potty trained kids. Then we gave the kid the rundown.

These are big boy pants. Do not shit in these pants. Do not pee in these pants. Doing that is tantamount to shitting on Mickey Mouse’s head. Do you understand? If you shit on Mickey’s head, he’ll tell Santa and then your whole year will be ruined. 

Then we created an entirely too complicated rewards program that was supposed to span the entire weekend. For two days our two year old would stare at the most coveted toy in all of Target and somehow that would motivate him to not shit on Mickey.

Putting aside how fucking miserable it was to explain to a 2-year-old FOR TWO DAYS why he couldn’t have the toy on the counter, everything about our “plan” was flawed. For starters, we went through six pair of big boy underwear in under an hour. Three times we sat him on the potty, read, sang, did humiliating potty dances, only to put his undies back on him and have him immediately pee down his own leg. And insist that that was not what was happening. (Or insist that while his pants were wet, his big boy undies were, in fact, still dry.)

On Saturday night, we were frayed and bitter. I drank an entire bottle of Rose, got into an argument with my husband about something that probably didn’t exist, and then stormed up the stairs to go to bed. Sunday would be a new day.

That night I did have the good sense to consult with my friend Lauren, who did her best not be painfully smug about her gracefully potty trained daughter who basically shares a birthday with Aut. She also had the good sense not tell me all at once what douche canoes we were being by assuming our kid would be successful in a day. (She let those texts come to me over an entire weekend, culminating with a Sunday evening text that began “at the risk of sounding like a dick…”) She suggested instant gratification, which made sense. Come morning, I was giving my kid M&Ms for breakfast if that’s what it was going to take.

And come Sunday did. Kid slept til nine, woke up dry (in an overnight diaper, I don’t have a hole in my head), and we immediately did that dumb parent thing where you get SUPER EXCITED about something that makes young, single people think you should be shot.

YAY FOR BIG BOY PANTS! YAY FOR ANOTHER LIFE-RUINING DAY OF WATCHING YOU PISS ON YOURSELF WHILE WE CHEER FOR YOU AND GIVE YOU CANDY! THIS IS SO FUN! CLAPS ALL AROUND! YOU’RE GOING TO HARVARD! 

He was stoked. He peed on command and I told him to go tell Pups and then he could have one whole M&M. He went to the kitchen and in the time it took to walk the six feet from the bathroom to the kitchen he actually couldn’t remember why he was getting an M&M. We almost had a meltdown because he thought the husband was denying him his M&M, when all he was trying to do was get him to say “I peed, therefore I get M&M.” You know CONNECTING THE FUCKING DOTS. Fail.

Thirty minutes later, I asked him if he needed to potty and then watched him make The Face and turn red while telling me no. He told me “no” while simultaneously shitting his pants. In front of me.

The husband and I kept having to talk over Aut’s head, reminding each other to keep it positive.

Don’t yell! Encourage his progress! Clap! I know you’re holding a cloth Superman baggy of human feces, but don’t let him know you hate him! SMILE! Ask him if he needs to read the potty book for inspiration.

The real clencher was when we took him out in public. (I want for you to know that writing this all down makes our choices seem even worse, which I didn’t even know was possible.) We took him to a lovely baptism/birthday garden party at a friend’s house. He waited about 12 minutes before peeing down the front of his pants. The good news is that it didn’t get on their floor because it all pooled in his shoes. So, silver lining.

I immediately grabbed a pull up, went to the back door, and yelled across two quiches, a nice quinoa salad, about about 30 people at my husband that our child wet his pants and whizzed in his shoes and I was calling uncle. The kid was putting on a pull up and we could talk about this later. Like in a year.

To seal our defeat and humiliation, upon arriving home we had to give our kid the toy. Totally undeserved, but he had no idea. He probably thinks peeing in his shoes was bonus points that fast-tracked him to winning the game.

Then we revised our strategy.

This morning we dropped him off at daycare with a pack up pull ups and nicely asked the daycare to potty train him.