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.

 

 

 

 

We are going to try something new.

This October marks 10 years of the Half Truth. For many of you, this birthday is meaningless. (Understandably.) For me, it’s maybe, sort of, kind of the most significant birthday/anniversary in my life. Ten years of blogging might be one of the biggest commitments I’ve ever kept in my whole life. With the exception of my husband and my love affair with mayonnaise.

When I started this blog, I was 22 years old and had graduated college with one of the top five least meaningful degrees available to a college student. After waiting for my phone to ring with an insane job offer–doing what, I had no idea, but it was going to be amazing and come with a HUGE paycheck– and eventually realizing the phone was not going to ring, I went to a staffing firm. Heather Harold (real name) was a tall, tanned, thin woman in her late thirties who told me, on no uncertain terms, that I lacked even the most basic professional skills and it would be a miracle if she could get me a job as an entry level secretary. And she felt she was letting me down easy. I wanted to be indignant, but she had a point.

I was married that September and returned to Boston from a whirlwind Napa wedding and Tahoe honeymoon to a tiny, air conditionless North End apartment, and a letter from my dad with my final rent check. With few-to-no-options, I called Heather Harold back and told her to do some Anne Sullivan shit. I needed a job. In 2006, title inflation was just starting to sweep the country. After lying on a typing test and inflating some filing experience from my father’s law firm the summer I was 14, I managed to land a temp job as a Corporate Services Manager at a corporate real estate firm. To clarify, I managed nothing and I didn’t even work for a corporate services department. Essentially I ordered office supplies and made sure the printers had paper. I was terrible at it and spent most of my days trying to get people to like me enough to 1. do my job for me 2. give me a leg to stand on when they inevitably tried to fire me.

And that’s how the blog started. I just needed something to do while sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day. I wasn’t a writer– in many ways I’m still not a writer– but it was, and is, the only thing that could save me. When no one else could make me laugh, I could make myself laugh. (A weird and not entirely enviable talent, but I do sometimes think I’m funny.) When I looked around at what a miserable failure my life seemed to be, there was comfort in knowing that 221 people I didn’t know were reading my words. The first time my blog got 500 views on a post, I drank an entire bottle of Cakebread at a Hillstone and nearly blacked out. It was silly. It still is silly. But it really did mean something to me. It meant that no matter how terrible my job was, how little I was contributing to the world, I still had my words. And 221 people who saw them.

And in a lot of ways the blog did change everything. When I didn’t have a resume to prove myself, I had the blog. When people didn’t know whether to trust that I could tell a story, I had the blog. It was the most unorthodox means for landing any civilized job, but it worked. If it weren’t for the blog, I’d probably still be lying about how much tabloid sized paper is in tray 6 of the Brother printer on the 14th floor.

And through it all, the blog itself has remained fairly insignificant. My commitment to it waxes and wanes, my confidence in sharing my stories and experiences here does the same. I worry that my becoming a mom has turn people off, or my boring suburban life has left me with nothing insightful to share. But my deep down desire hasn’t changed at all–I want to be a writer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever truly thought to be proud of. I’ve been a lot of things, a strategist, copywriter, creative director, content person, brand guru, and those things are wonderful (and pay well…) but I want to be a writer. And it turns out that there’s only one way to become a writer.

You have to write.

People constantly make suggestions to me… You should write a sitcom! Oh my god, you should be writing a book. Have you ever thought about a screenplay? Have you tried standup? But at the core of all of those things is material. Real stories about my boring, suburban life.

So I am going to try something new. Rather than think and stew and marinate on topics, I am going to try to just…share. I’m going to tell you weird stories about the husband falling asleep in the car on the ride to work and how I want to murder him by dropping tablets of rat poison in his open mouth (just kidding! sort of.) and stories about A putting on a suit and tie over his jammies and walking into the kitchen and asking me to dance.

And you may find that many of these stories are super fucking boring, but I have to write them down. Because they’re all I have.

And I’m going to be a fucking writer.

 

 

 

Successfully Failing at Motherhood

A few years ago I wrote a post called “But what’s it really like to have a baby?” It ended up getting picked up by the Huffington Post (front page) and for 24 hours I was the most equally lauded and hated woman on the planet. Mothers and childless women from across our great country gathered their spatulas and absurdly limited legal knowledge and campaigned (anonymously, online) to have my child removed from me. Why? Because I just didn’t think being a mom was the super greatest time ever. In equal contrast were the others– the mothers and childless women who were relieved to hear a version of the truth that, in some small measure, mirrored their own feelings. The feeling that children, while chock full of charm and adorable (sometimes), are also a full contact, full time sport. There’s no beginning and end to parenting. It’s not just a sacrifice of your vagina and lower abdomen (which becomes a sideshow), but your actual life.

In those two years, my baby has become a toddler. And frankly, my feelings about motherhood haven’t changed much. In the same way that I love cake and hate baking, I love my child, but I really don’t love motherhood. And as hard as it is for some people to reconcile this, or even accept it, I don’t really feel much guilt about it. My journey now has been about how to balance the choice to have a child and catapult myself into a role that neither comes naturally to me, nor gives me much satisfaction, and maintain my sanity as a human being who craves a life less consumed by the unending demands of motherhood.

For many, there’s a simple, vilifying argument. “You chose to have children. Your selfishness is disgusting.”  To those people, I say “fuck you.” If you truly believe that our society pays even the slightest of lip service to the reality of motherhood in a modern age, you are naive. We’re still taking a page out of a book that has men bringing home all the bacon, women who were groomed from a young age to become mothers and accept the role that was offered, and zero social media pressure or scrutiny. In a day in age where maternity leave is a luxury, leaving early to pick up a child from daycare causes both personal and professional duress, and the choice between children and a career is only possible if your career affords you incredible flexibility or cash, the “reality” of motherhood has been rewritten, but never published. (For example, on top of childcare, which can run about $1600/month [down from $2400 in Boston], I pay nearly $800/month to have someone pick up my child from daycare because I simply cannot leave work early enough to fetch him. I get home between 7:00/7:30 and begin the one hour sprint through bath, dinner, books, and bed.)

I was chatting with my mother on the phone the other day, relaying the plight of the modern mother– the guilt and balance and dissatisfaction. Thinking she’d have some insight (she did have THREE children), she replied, “I don’t really understand that. I was just so happy.”

Welp, there you have it. Thanks, Mother.

But then I got to thinking about it. When she comes to visit, she relishes all the stuff that makes me want to poke my eyes out. She’s on all fours, pretending she’s a pony, coloring Elsa, watching Mickey Mouse. She thinks letting him pick out ridiculous, mismatched outfits is hilarious and cute. (No. Just no.) She can build Lego towers and knock them down for HOURS. I approach Legos with a mind for building something elaborate. A color-coordinated palace with symmetry and functional exits. To A, that’s sacrilege. We build it high and then we knock it to the ground. Then we repeat that… for the rest of the week. I don’t want to be sitting there thinking about being anywhere else, but that’s what happens.

I hate that on weekends, I look forward to time to recharge, relax, and get things organized, and instead we are held captive by the whims of a 37 inch person. Rain strikes fear into the core of my being. I want to eat at a restaurant, but I’m gripped with anxiety about whether it will be a fun and worthwhile meal or an ill-fated nightmare that leaves me feeling like I wasted $100 and 2 hours of my day. Keep them indoors and they bottle up so much energy you will live to regret your decision for days. Take them outside and they’re hot, cold, hungry, wish you brought the bike and not the scooter, need to pee, don’t like the way the sun is shining, think the slide is too green, the other kids are looking at them, or want to be pushed on the swing. For the rest of the day.

And I fucking hate “mommy friends.” I don’t mean my friends who are mommies. I mean people in the world who are supposed to be my friends because we both have kids. What the fuck kind of sense does that make? I don’t like you, your husband, your politics, or your approach to life, but since we both have children born in 2013, let’s hang out and have some wine. I’D RATHER DO ANYTHING ELSE.

And mostly I hate that I’m always fighting with my husband about nothing. We aren’t even fighting with each other, we’re fighting with the invisible blob that is parenthood. The intangible piece of shit that is blameless and evasive, so you have to yell at your physical spouse. Because obviously the husband deserves to take the entire blame for the fact that I’m wound like a top because my child thinks it’s absurd that we don’t kick people in the tits, I haven’t been able to eat lunch without a chopstick flying at my face since 2013, every dollar we make is assigned to childcare, college funds, savings, mortgage and alcohol, and every time my kid finishes a bag of ANYTHING, he flings the crumbs around the backseat of the car. (WHATTHEFUCKISWRONGWITHYOU?! JUSTPUTTHEBAGDOWNLIKEACIVILIZEDGENTLEMAN!)

I miss energy and free time. I miss the gym. I miss extra cash flow. I miss investing in stupid shit like absurdly expensive sushi and shoes. Because as terrible as that sounds to other people, I love both of those things.

But the very, very worst part is that I know I will miss this. Because as much as I don’t love motherhood, I love him. I love his tiny face and his absurd lexicon. I love watching him learn things and his enthusiasm about damn near everything. I love that he thinks we are the absolutely greatest. (Though frankly he far prefers my husband to me. I’m sure you’re shocked.) I love that he wakes up first thing in the morning and asks if today is the day we get to spend the whole day together (weekends). I even love that he tells his entire swimming class that his Mups’ boobies are falling out of her bathing suit. (They weren’t.)

I know that there will come a time when motherhood does become me. At some point, some age, the winds will shift and motherhood will too. What my child needs and wants will be something I can offer. The sacrifices will become less physical and more emotional. And I’m sure that hindsight, that bastard, will be 20/20. I’ll laugh at what seems like petty, long-ago misery and cry as he walks across a stage or down an aisle.

This idea that we as humans are expected to sacrifice our lives for the lives of others isn’t sustainable. I want for “motherhood” to be a parallel journey to the bigger one that I am on, the journey of life. I don’t want to feel that choosing to have a child means choosing to jump track from continuing to become the person I should be to dedicating everything I have to someone else’s journey. I want to set him up. I want to help him find his path, but I want to stay on mine too. I don’t want to be consumed by motherhood. I just want to be a woman whose journey includes a child.

And I think that should be okay.

 

How I got almost obese

There are a lot of things that I am really glad I don’t ever have to explain to my 15-year-old-self. Among them? My current figure. (A combination of the Venus on a Half Shell and a Mr. Potato Head.)

This morning I “weighed in” to get an official number for my now very necessary weight loss. I weighed 197.4 pounds. To give you some idea, the last time I hit 197.0 pounds I was about eight months pregnant. So the last time I was this size it was because I was carrying around another human life. Like a whole ‘nother person.

When I got pregnant, I was by no means at my fighting weight. I had started to creep up the scale after “retiring” from running because I hated it. I had meant to lose some weight, but because I was about to get knocked up, I didn’t really care THAT much. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I was nearing 170.0 pounds. (Oof.) Previous to that, I had enjoyed a few years of being about 150 pounds. Too thin by some folks standards, but man did I look great. Hungry, but great.

As many of you know, weight is a tough subject for me. Despite every reason to be a normal and well adjusted gal with no body image issues at all, I instead opted to go down the path of being a hugely fucked up gal with lots of issues. I started throwing up my food when I was in first grade. I was at a pool party and I was eight years old. I ate too much cake and I felt bad about myself and for some reason my eating-disorder-preconditioned-brain connected some super fucked up dots and I made myself throw up. That was the start of a 17-year battle with bulimia. (Though I’d argue that was just the first outward manifestation of a life-long battle with food and eating.) Having my cake and throwing it up too was easy. It made sense. There are times even today that it still makes sense.

For starters, I do not eat bon bons. I don’t scoop ice cream into my pie hole while bemoaning my existence. In the traditional sense, I don’t use food as comfort. I know cake doesn’t love me. I realize that BLTs don’t care about me as a person. For me, eating has always been about seeking stimulation. When I’m bored or restless I look forward to eating. Maybe it will be fun! Maybe that feta salata will be entertaining!

Another important thing to know is how healthy I eat. Kale, sprouted nuts, salads, cottage cheese, kombucha, no red meat, lots of herbs, olive oil…. We spend hundreds of dollars a week at Whole Foods on really good quality food. I’m living proof that you can get pretty fucking fat on large quantities (accidentally large quantities) of healthy food.

And I drink. Again, I’m not guzzling growlers and slinging White Russians. But I do drink beer and wine. Usually 3-4 days a week I have a glass or two of wine and then on the weekends maybe more. Depends. But I’m not taking out a bottle a night.

But because I don’t have these crazy swings of totally out of control behavior, losing weight is nothing short of just plain annoying. Because I’m not saddling up to the bar and ordering cheese fries and bacon cheese burgers, the thought of having to lose 40 or 50 pounds seems cruel. I don’t deserve to be punished when I didn’t do anything wrong. But that none of that changes the cold, hard facts. I am 4.5 pounds from OBESITY. Those tiny weights you grab at a step aerobics class are all that stand between me and obesity. And I’m not the kind of girl who was supposed to be obese. Seriously.

But it goes like this.

You stop running after four or five half marathons because you hate running. Running sucks. And then you start having a few more beers or don’t reduce your carb intake even though you’re not running 30 miles a week. Then you get pregnant and you finally find something YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT. I excelled at being pregnant in a way few can. I was SO good at it. And you’re pregnant so no one is like “why is that chick eating two entrees?” They’re like, “you are so cute and pregnant!” (Wee!)

And then your baby comes and he doesn’t latch so you’re pumping all the time. You’re pumping in a unisex, single bathroom in the hallway of an industrial building at 9AM and 1PM. You’re rushing home to pump again before your boobs explode and your nipples take someone’s eye out. You can’t jog because you wear a 40EE and any sudden movement causes pain and leaking. And no one likes a leaky jogger. Fortunately, breast feeding takes a lot of the baby weight off. (Not all, but a lot.) And you’re feeling pretty okay.

And then after about a year you have to stop pumping. Because pumping is a prison. And breast feeding is making you nuts. And you’re crying a lot. And something is totally up with your hormones. So you stop and you gain a few lbs, but it’s not the end of the world because you’re going to start exercising again because your boobs are no longer weapons of mass destruction. But then you get a new job. And it’s terrible. And you have to buy a Prius and you’re driving to work in the morning, crying, and then driving home in traffic, cursing the clock and trying to make it in time to let the nanny off. And you’re tired as fuck when you get home and your baby hasn’t seen you all day and you have about an hour before he has to go to bed. So you eat some cheese and olives and crackers and wait for your husband to get home. And you stress about money and feel guilty about your baby and your terrible job. And so you open a bottle of wine and you try to just breathe and relax. And then he gets home and you look at your baby and he has some wine and then you talk about dinner and then OH FUCK YOU TOTALLY FORGOT THAT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GO JOGGING. Maybe you’ll wake up at 4:45 the next morning and exercise before going to your terrible job? Maybe? (Answer: no.)

So then you leave your job. And that’s a huge relief but it’s not a relief to be without a job, a primary breadwinner, and panicked as shit that you need to do something. So you start hustling. Because the nanny has to get paid and the rent doesn’t pay itself and you’re arguing with your husband and eating cheese and crackers because it’s easy and dinner is a distant memory when you’ve got a little guy who needs to take a bath and go to bed. Maybe you’ll cook some chicken later. Or order Chinese. Or both.

AND OH FUCK YOU FORGOT THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO LOSE SOME WEIGHT. So you don’t.

And then you move. Because you and your husband finally decide that something’s gotta give. So you move. And it’s great. But now you commute three hours a day and the baby has daycare and once again working out is going to have to be before 6AM or after 8PM and while that’s not impossible, it’s just not motivating. And you’re happy in your new house and you’re starting to feel like maybe being fat isn’t that big of a deal. And you take on a persona. And you get a little less beautiful to yourself. And your underwear get HUGE.

And then you get on the scale one day and between what felt like yesterday and now you’ve put on more than twenty pounds. And you feel a lot of sadness and guilt. And no matter how many times you say to yourself, “I am more than this number.” It doesn’t make it less humiliating. It doesn’t change that you can’t buy new clothes and you don’t want to see old friends because you know what they’re thinking. They want to know how you got almost obese. And you want to be able to explain it, but you know that at the end of the day the real reason is that you chose this over losing weight. I’m almost obese because I chose to be. And I didn’t even realize that’s what I was choosing. I was just trying to get through another day or season or situation. And ten extra pounds seemed manageable. And then twenty was only ten away from ten. But now…

Now I’m 25 lbs from where I started, 40 lbs from where I “should” be, and 55 lbs from where I once was. And it sucks so bad.

So today I got on the scale and I got the number and I wrote it on my fridge. (Which isn’t symbolic, just centrally located.) And while I know it isn’t about a number, I also know that’s what motivational people say to fat people. It’s about a number. It shouldn’t be about an unrealistic number, but these numbers are a necessary guiding principle. Girl got fat and she’s got to get un-fat. Before I get obese.

Because that, friends, is how I got almost obese.

Are you a hoe?

We are homeowners. If you aren’t a homeowner, I will let your mind at ease. You don’t need to be a homeowner. If you are currently living in a swanky rental where someone else takes out your trash, replaces broken things, and worries about insurance and other random things, you are doing a-okay. I never really understood the economic incentive of homeownership– and truthfully I’m not sure I do now– but sometimes you crunch some numbers and you’re feeling all American-dreamy and POOF! you end up with a home that’s all your own.

Don’t mistake my honesty for dissatisfaction; I’m having a gangbusters time owning a home. (It’s a condo. I don’t want to lie to you.) But I know that there is not always a reason to own. In all fairness, we bought a new conversion condo that was almost as turnkey as they come. There are some #firstworldproblems, like I don’t like the blond wood of the bannister and the cherrywood of the cabinets aren’t what I would have picked out myself, but whatever. Cry a fucking river, Caroline.

But when you’ve lived in apartment rentals– especially in the city– for almost 15 years, there are things about homeownership that can be a real beast. Never mind taking out the trash myself and sorting my own recycling, I’m getting pretty good at that, and I’m even ramping up to changing my own lightbulbs and remembering to lock my own front door, but as the summer approaches, things begin to emerge. Homeowner things. Like tiny toothed monsters hiding in the shadows.

We did not want a yard. In some ways, it made us the perfect buyers. Yard? No thank you. I hear yard and I am tormented by the years I spent slaving as my mother’s stand in Indonesian factory worker, her personal weeder and earth whisperer. Saturday mornings spent hunched uncomfortably in a dirt bed riddled with dog shit, praying to every known deity that I wouldn’t find an earthworm or beetle of some kind. Because then I would die. And while I understand the desire for a green space to… do whatever you do on it… I’d rather a nice slab with a patio table and some twinkle lights. As for the child, he’s fine. He has a park, a room of toys, colors, tables, and whole city. He’ll live without a yard.

But we didn’t get away totally scot free. There’s a patch of earth. It’s about 3×2 feet on the side of the driveway. My initial thought was that we should buy some nice shiny rocks and fill it up. I was ignored. There was real enthusiasm for planting, which I was not UNenthusiastic about, but I was a little indifferent. When the snow melted, it revealed what I thought was a bunch of dead shit. Turns out, they were something called “annuals” and they weren’t actually dead, just holding out. If I ever look like that while I’m “holding out,” just take me out.

We had a Very Official meeting of our condo association. (Me, Corey, the downstairs neighbor, some cheese, two bottles of rose, and Author running up and down the hall.) We decided to get ready for summer by hiring some students to clean and paint the patio furniture and “prep the bed” for some planting. We made a list of items we’d need to pick up:

• Rustoleum Primer

• Rustoleum Black Enamel Paint

• Phosphoric Acid Prep and Etch

• Rake

• Hoe

• Shovel

• Wire Brushes

• Hose

• Hose mount

• Broom

• Hose Nozzle

• Compost Soil

• Mulch

I think that was everything, all of which would be available at Home Depot. I volunteered to go get the stuff during the week so that the students could hit the ground running on Saturday.

What should have been a quick trip to the hardware store quickly spiraled into a hot spot of self actualization and doubt. Do you have any idea how many different kinds of hoses there are? How many lengths, styles, colors, and types? Do you want a rubber hose or a vinyl hose? Do you want it to coil or spiral? Green or black? Expandable standard? Will you be using it to trickle beds or spray flowers? I DONT HAVE ANY IDEA. At this point I hadn’t even made it to the Home Depot. I was at the Target. I asked a couple who was passing by if they had any knowledge of hoses, to which the man, who had thick tattoos all around his neck and upper chest, responded, “They spray water. What’s there to know?” I explained that I was buying my first hose and he looked at me incredulously. I explained that he might be surprised how little use one has for a garden hose in downtown Boston and he looked at me like I’d no sense at all. He pointed at a plain green hose about 30 feet long. “Just get that one.” He started to walk off, but I knew I needed him to direct me to the correct nozzle. “Are the nozzles universal? Like can I use any one with any hose?” This time his wife/girlfriend responded. “What are you doing with the hose.” I wasn’t trying to be an asshole, but it just came out. “Getting water out of it.” She explained that there were different settings for different kinds of watering and I should be sure I was getting the right settings. After a somewhat exhausting back and forth, I realized that the most expensive nozzle in all the land was only $9. “Oh. Well this is dumb. I’ll just buy a few.”

What she heard was, “I’m an elitist hose whore who thinks money grows on trees and will simply surround myself with solid gold nozzles and scoff at other, nozzleless persons.”

I made it home with a hose and a nozzle. So about a 10th of my list. I wasn’t deterred. The problem was Target. Not me.

The rest of the items I knew wouldn’t give me a problem. Couple of cans of spray paint, bag of dirt, rake. I ran to the Home Depot to pick up the items after dinner.

Now look. I am not suggesting that the employees of the Home Depot are not helpful, as in, they desire to help you. But I can read labels just like the next guy. What I actually need is some expertise. Some knowledge that goes beyond what the hapless copywriter was able to get on the label. (Believe me, as a copywriter I know the drill.) When I suddenly realize that compost and soil are not interchangeable, and that there’s been a lot of fucking around with dirt since I last bought a bag of it, I need someone with some real information. There was no one. I wasn’t about to go home without dirt and try to explain that with all my brains I was actually dumber than dirt, so I stood in the nursery section for a solid 45 minutes reading bags. I learned nothing. I would have to just pick.

When I finally made my way to the gardening utensils section, most of my smugness had faded. I was glad to be able to grab the last few things and go on my way, but of course that didn’t happen. Because something happened to hoes since 1997 and it turns out I can’t pick one out of a line up. Hoes have changed. Hoes are in a whole new league.

The part that still makes me laugh is how I allowed myself to become convinced that I was being punked. Even though the display said “gardening hoe” and I was holding a thing with a “gardening hoe” label, I refused to believe that it was actually a hoe. Why did it look like that? And because I don’t actually know what a hoe is used for, I couldn’t accurately decide whether this nouveau hoe would work for my needs. My phone battery was getting too low for an extensive research effort so I did what I do best, gave up.

Hoeless and pushing around a bag of dirt, I finally found the spray paint. (The expert at Home Depot told me it was “halfway down aisle four.” What she meant to say was “it’s all the way down at the end of aisle four. Like the very end. Before you hit the bathtubs.”) I may have made an involuntary whimpering sound when I looked up to find 3790032 different kinds of RustOleum. I know that I said, “you’ve got to be shitting me” out loud. My hoe problems were the least of it. There was no way I was going to be able to figure out what kind of paint to get. And how much did I need? I deferred to the friendly Home Depot expert who read the label and then stated, “well, it says here you can get 50 sqft from one can so I guess you can get about 50 square feet.” I really didn’t feel like being bitchy because it occurred me that she really did think she’d just done an incredible job servicing me.

“Oh great. That’s awesome. I’ll get two.”

i.e. I don’t have the energy to point out to you how useless that information was to me. I’d try, but I’ve been beaten by hoe and a bag of dirt and have nothing left to give. I’m just going to get these two cans and if they aren’t enough, I’ll huff them in my car before coming back to talk to you about getting more.

Two wasn’t enough. I should have gotten four.

When I got home, full of tales of the hoe aisle and dirt differences, the hubs gave me one of his usual smug responses. Something along the lines of “you weren’t asked to pick out a cure for cancer.” His smugness was short-lived, though, as I had compensated for my inability to find anything for us to use by buying miniature versions of everything on the list for A. There’s nothing that makes the hubs’ crazier than my facilitating the boy being all up in his shit while he is trying to get something done.

“…. and this tiny shovel so he can help you clear the beds! Oh! And did you see this ridiculous mini push broom?! How cute is that?”

Next stop, the plant nursery!