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.

 

Moderation, right?

I’ve recently been following a lot of fitness stuff on Instagram because I am attempting to suck the energy and motivation from these happy, skinny people and use it to force myself to quit being such a miserable fat ass. It works sometimes. A lot of times it doesn’t work at all. I start my morning (after commuting to the garage), riding the bus to my office and scrolling through photo after photo of egg whites, protein powder, neon colored workout gear, and high ponytails. #mondaymotivation #eatclean #getafterit #notimelikethepresent #eattolive #bethechange #gogirl #thintastesbetter #fit #imhot– the hashtags are endless and one of my favorite parts. I’m pretty sure I could start a satirical workout gear line based on hashtags. Because I definitely need some lycra leggings with #squatbitch written all over them. (BRB, I obviously just found my calling.)

But I digress. My new favorite is stumbling upon insanely fit, chronic selfie takers (who apparently own NOTHING else but coordinating sports bras and shortie shorts) who answer questions of from their fans in their IG posts. “People are constantly asking me: do you eat cake? YES! Yes, ladies. I LOVE cake. I don’t deprive myself of ANYTHING. But I do LISTEN to my BODY and do what makes me FEEL good. Sometimes that’s REST. Sometimes that’s a crazy WORKOUT. AND SOMETIMES IT’S CAKE! #eatcake #nodeprivation #fitmom” …or something like that. Occasionally I’m tricked by these posts and I find myself spending a hot second being like, “OMG. She really is just like me. She eats cake and is thin and there’s hope for me.” And then one of two things happens…

  1. The thin, fit lady follows up her cake proclamation with some BULLSHIT recipe for her favorite cheat cake and it looks something like this: 

Piper’s Perfect Cheat Cake

Serves: 1/2 a person

1/2 cup exotic nut “flour” (sometimes I use Kuelalala flour from the highest peaks of Japan– but only if I have to!)

2 cups gluten-free, cruelty free, organic oats

1/2 cup pureed acai berries (organic or nothing!)

3 TBSP coconut oil

1 TBSP macadamia nut butter (you can make this the night before)

16 organic avocados (buy local; I pick mine from my avocado tree in the back garden)

9 TBSP chia seeds (I can’t seem to keep these in the house– no matter how much I buy!)

3 dates, pitted

1 cup pumpkin milk

2 tsp cinnamon (ground yourself)

1/8 tsp organic, local maple syrup

Instructions: It’s so easy, y’all! Glaze the avocados with the maple syrup and roast for 3 hours on 250 until they begin to chant Om Shanti from the oven. NOT A SECOND LONGER. Simmer the pumpkin milk with the cinnamon and dates until it smells like a vegan Christmas party. Throw everything except the chia seeds and acai berries into a Vitamix Pro series and puree until completely smooth. If you need to sneak some batter, I totally understand. (But remember, that’s one less bite you get later! SACRIFICES!) Pour into a loaf pan– don’t panic if the consistency is “brick-ish.” Bake for 26 seconds at 325 to allow the flavors to marry. Let it cool and then ice with acai berry puree and sprinkle with chia seeds.

There you have it! My all time FAVORITE cheat cake. So good. Reminds me of the cupcakes my mama used to make!

(Obviously her mother was a loveless hippie with the kitchen skills of a cockroach. But whatever.)

2. I remember that when these ladies cheat, they do so once every 6-7 days.

Six days of eating roughage and egg whites, working out twice a day, and freezing to death in those sports bra outfits,  and they earn a fiber cookie and a half glass of zinfandel.  We’re not talking about moderation. Moderation is knowing that you should never go for four glasses of red on a weeknight. (Because only people who really hate themselves allow for that to happen.) This is something else. If I make it through breakfast and lunch without eating something completely shitty, I feel like I’ve earned something by 3 PM. That feels moderate. And I’m warm and comfy in my modern muumuu.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not disparaging these amazing women (and men) who have iron self discipline and bodies like gods. It’s really something. But like all media, I have to be really, really careful not to confused their goals and outcomes with my own, and therefore not confuse their habits with my own. I’ll likely never be skipping around town in a bra and wind shorts. (And if I did, the husband would have me committed.) I haven’t done that since the late 90s and even then it wasn’t my best look. I’m 100% sure that my before and after photos will not look anything like 99% of these folks. Not because I couldn’t (I couldn’t, realistically, but physically it’s probably possible if I REALLY committed), but because I’m not in that place in my life. Plus I’ve yet to find the Instagram account of the crazy fit gal who works 50 hours a week, commutes 3 hours a day, has kids, and still has friends who like hanging out with her. Because, let’s be honest, no one likes a sober gal who eats fiber cookies and talks about deadlifts.

So for now I’ll keep riding the bus, liking the photos, drawing inspiration from these otherworldly humans, and collecting design ideas for my activewear line. Starting with the sports bra emblazoned with #lovemycookies.

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

And today. And boobs.

I’m having a hard time today. I’m having a hard time coping with the grief that I feel for so many people I don’t know. I’m having a hard time building bridges instead of walls. I’m having a hard time focusing on being happy and present, when my mind wants to wander to a black hole filled with fear and anxiety. I want to go home from work. I want to pick up my child early. I want to eat something fluffy and cheesy for dinner. I want to put a lot of hard shit on pause for a while.

I know a lot of people are feeling that.

But I can’t. Not today. Because the grief has to be grieved. And the hard conversations have to be had. We have to get through this, not over this. All of this. Not just the acute stuff, but the big stuff. We have to keep talking and debating and saying honest things to one another so we can make progress. And it’s tiring. It’s always so tiring. I know. Because I’m married. And that’s all you do when you’re married. Have hard conversations and fight the urge to give up. Because giving up is so easy now and so fucking hard later. (And because I don’t want to die alone. So…)

We have to keep going.

And while I can’t make that easier or better, I can distract you for a while by talking about boobs. My boobs.

My boobs are terrible. My boobs were sacrificed on the alter of over-achieving parenting. After two merciless weeks (because pro-breastfeeding people can be BRUTAL; don’t argue) of attempting to get Aut to latch, it became abundantly clear that he wasn’t gonna. His mouth and my nipple were a failed arranged marriage. The kidney transplant that wasn’t going to take. He did not want my boob. (Which, merciless breastfeeding people were also cruel about. So fuck you, again.) Because organic, imported from Germany formula was going to poison my child, give him autism, stunt his mental development, and keep him from getting into college, I only had one choice. I had to pump. I had to hook my titties up to a pump four times a day for 9.5 months. I pumped first thing in the morning. I pumped in the only bathroom in my entire building (which happened to be unisex), while evil bitches knocked ceaselessly and told me it was “unfair” that I was using the bathroom to pump. I pumped when I got home from work and before bed. Sometimes I would accidentally oversleep and wake up in a soggy pile of bed linens. I pumped on airplanes and in shopping malls. I pumped in parks and in my car. I pumped and pumped and pumped.

And when you pump, you squeeze. You treat your breasts like misbehaving Plah Doh. You squish them and poke at them. You live in a constant state of fear about not getting all the milk out and ending up with clogged ducts. (Been there. Spent 5 days in the hospital. And kept pumping.) You manhandle them in ways that young boys dream about.  You shake them and mash them to make sure every, single drop of that delicious, liquid gold makes its way out.

And while you’re breastfeeding, your tits look fantastic. If you’ve ever forgotten, go to a children’s swimming lesson. You can tell the infant moms from the toddler moms by tits alone. The infant moms have perky, swollen boobs that have a strange mix of utility and sex. The toddler moms look like they dropped their tits into their bathing suits and then lost them. Poof. Gone. While you’re breast feeding, there is all sorts of blood flow and tissue and milk working in glorious symphony to make you look like a porn star. It’s amazing.

What you don’t know is that they will deflate. You’ll wean your little angel, and for a few weeks you’ll be like “SWEET! No more milk, but my breasts are amazing still and everyone was wrong. I’m going to end up with incredible post-baby boobs!” And you’ll be naive and wrong. And premature.

Within about 6 months the sag appears. The “life” that your boobs had begins to die. They take on a new relationship with your belly. Rather than resting-on or grazing your belly occasionally, they flop upon it. With a harrumph. For me, the worst part was the stretch marks. The incredible 40 EE breasts that I developed while pregnant and breastfeeding (I am not fucking with you– 40 EE– A, B, C, D, E, EE) had stretched and pulled the skin of my boobs to the point of no return. All that squeezing and kneading and mashing while pumping only made it worse. I had ruined boobs. I had… sad sacks.

And body shaming doesn’t really affect me. What affects me is when people talk about celebrating my sad, wounded boobs. I do not want to celebrate them. I want to mourn them. And then have them lifted, tucked, pumped, and injected.

But for now, they just sort of sit there in my bra. Like little puddles of forgotten pudding in a flavor no one likes (except your husband, because he’d eat spoiled pudding in shit flavor if it meant he could have pudding whenever he wanted). Every now and then I take them out and look at them, give them a pep talk, and then watch them retreat. They’ve given up. Which I understand. I don’t blame them.

 

 

Real life shit: Underwear

I paid $320 for a concert ticket to a sold out Beyonce stadium show tonight. Face value. There’s a 30% chance I am going to be standing in the rain. There’s a 100% chance of hair-ruining humidity. There’s a 150% chance that I’ve spend the last 15 hours being an 80-year-old woman about this entire thing.

Let’s rewind. Ten years ago (hell, five years ago) a very different gal would be going to this concert. I’d spend the whole morning rocking out to Beyonce. I’d probably take off the day from work, go buy a new, slightly skanky outfit, and start drinking at noon. Beyonce concert day would be a national holiday. Instead, I spend the last four days googling parking, weather maps, rain policies, and how the fuck you do your hair if you have to go to work and then go to a Bey show and you have thin, frizzy hair and it’s probably going to rain.

This morning, I spent over an hour mulling over my footwear– not because I wanted to find the sexiest, most Bey-worthy pair, but because I wanted to make sure that my footwear was comfortable and cute, but not so cute that a deluge of rain was going to make me sad and ruin my shoes. (Landed on Tom’s. I’m 100% certain Beyonce does not endorse Tom’s.) I meticulously packed a bag with a towel (in case I’m wet and get cold in the car), a change of footwear (flip flops, obviously), a change of clothes, a toothbrush (in case I get stranded somewhere south of Boston and have to sleep), my Kindle (because, traffic), two bottles of Fever Tree Ginger Beer and a child’s Thermos of Tito’s. I set two alarms to remember the tickets, took out a budgeted amount of cash from the ATM, and texted everyone going with me the purse policy at the stadium.

In the last few years, I have become the most uncool person I know. And we’re not even to the worst part.

Underwear.

About the time I gave up trying to find anything concert-worthy in my Birkenstock-laden, flowy-mom-top stuffed, sad sack of a closet, I realized that I needed to put on the right pair of underwear. Because at this stage of my life, underwear and make or break pretty much anything.

For many, many years I exclusively wore lycra blended, slightly sexy, lacy hipster undies. They were permanently half way up my ass, but I hardly noticed. My ass was so tight and shapely that a little lace in my crack didn’t affect my day. I looked so cute shimmying out of my jeans that I wouldn’t have cared if I had a front and back wedgie. When I got pregnant, I learned the hard, sweaty way that you should never, ever have anything that is not 100% cotton near your vagina in the summer. Domestic terrorism was a smaller threat than my summer-crotch in synthetic fabrics. Lesson learned.

As I got older (and heavier), I started to dip my toe in fuller coverage undies. Having your entire ass covered (especially when it’s a little squishy), is a mother fucking revelation. The amount of brain power that I was subconsciously wasting trying to ignore my half wedgie was staggering. Not to mention, once your ass is not 25, getting a wedgie out is not a simple tug. It’s a full on dig. You have to search for your underwear between your cheeks. You absolutely cannot attempt to get your panties out in a hallway because your hand can get lost and before you know it, people are streaming out of a meeting and there you are fisting yourself.

Once my whole ass was covered, I started playing around with higher waistlines. Suddenly underwear went from “the thing that keeps me from humping my pants” to a tool. Depending on how high you’re willing to go, your undies can serve a purpose. They can tuck and suck and shape. More importantly, they can give you a little hug and tell you you’re good enough.

Which is exactly what I need my undies to do today. I need them to tuck in my tummy, lift me up, and smooth out the lumps so that my DvF mom top looks like it fits. I need them to hug me during the concert and make me feel safe and confident when it starts raining and I immediately wish I was at home in my bed watching new episodes of Orphan Black onDemand. So while my 22-year-old self would have been delighted in some lacy, scant panties and a pair of fuck me heels, my 32-year-old self disagrees. I found an amazing pair of spandex and cotton miracle undies with a high waist and firm grip. And they’re black, so sexy by default. (Because duh.) I did hold up a pair of black Hankie Pankies, though, and smiled at how cute and useless they are.

With my undies on, my bag packed, and my hair styled in a low bun with $26 worth of anti-frizz product in it, I left my house an hour late for work today. As I was walking out the door, toting a toddler, trying to find my keys, and wondering how much battery was left on my Kindle, I felt pretty good. At the last minute, I reached in the door to grab Aut’s vitamins and I knocked something on the floor. It was a bottle of Xanax.

I went ahead and threw that in my bag. Because who am I to ignore a sign from God?

 

 

 

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.