The worst part of parenting (so far)

I just found out what the absolute worst part of parenting is.

It’s not the lack of sleep, picking up your crying baby every 90 minutes and just praying to God that this child would sleep for more than 2 hours (though that’s terrible, no question).

It’s not the terrible twos, (or more often, the terrible threes), complete with tantrums and potty training.

It’s not being home with two kids in diapers and feeling like all you do is change them, feed them, watch annoying TV shows, and try to get them down for naps so you can have a break or take a shower.

It’s not being at work and worrying about whether your child is doing OK at daycare, and feeling sad about all the milestones and precious moments you may be missing.

It’s not discipling your child over and over for the same thing, wondering what you’re doing wrong.

It’s not sweating over 5th grade math homework or being a chauffeur 24/7 to all your kids’ activities; being the warm body that seems to be there only to fulfill everyone’s desires for food, clean laundry, entertainment, and transportation.

No, it’s none of those things. The absolute worst part of parenting is that first time your kid pushes you away.  The first time you go in for a kiss on the cheek and he turns his head.  Or the time you ask for a hug and, for the first time in his entire life, he says “no”.  And you know the little boy who used to run to you when you came in the door, or cried when you left the house, or kept stalling bedtime for just “one more hug” is gone.  The little one who needed me to “put kisses in his pockets” so he had them if he needed them at school is no more. The sweet kid that always wanted to be within arm’s reach has vanished into his bedroom, the door closed.

Now I’m a nag.  I’m annoying,  My silly jokes and songs are no longer needed or appreciated.  I don’t get to sing him to sleep, give him a bath, or hold his hand (though admittedly, how weird would that be to still be doing that with your thirteen year old?). When was the last time I washed his hair? When did he last sit in my lap? What was the last bedtime story I read to him? 

I know he loves me.  I know it’s just different now.  I know that I’m still needed, even if that doesn’t look the same as it used to.  I know I just need to ride it out, let him come to me, and be a constant source of love and encouragement in the background, even as he pulls away.  He needs to pull away.  He needs to become his own person, figure out this strange new world he’s in, become independent, and be with his friends.  We all did it, I know.  I know.

But today I didn’t get a hug.  And it was the worst.

 

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May madness

Is is possible to die from parenting during the months of May and June? Because I think I’m on my deathbed.  You will soon see my obituary:  Tracy W., 1975-2019.  Died from an accumulation of band concerts, field trips, doctor’s appointments, laundry, and yard work.  Survived by her equally haggard husband and two cranky, overstimulated children.

I am a zombie.  A mombie.  I am the walking dead.  I am broke.  I am a victim of noise pollution.  My body hurts.  I fall asleep the moment I am horizontal.  I want to eat things but I don’t want to have to make things to eat.  People keep saying words to me and it’s just too much.  I can’t be expected to listen to all the words.  All talking should cease after 7 pm so that the swelling in my brain can recede before morning.

My mind is a swirling tornado of information, mental to-do’s, plans for tomorrow/next week/next month, shopping lists, and fantasies of spending a whole day on the couch doing nothing.  I am physically unable to be in all of the places that I am required to be.

Last week my husband had to go to a training on Wednesday night.  Now, Wednesday night is our run-around night.  My daughter has dance from 6:30-7:30 pm, and my son has karate from 5:30-7:30 pm.  Usually the hubs and I divide and conquer, but last week I was on my own.  So, no biggie, it’s just one week, I got this.  Jeff was able to take Nate to karate on the way to his training, so I took Leah to dance, and my plan was to hang around during her lesson and then swing around and pick Nate up on our way home.  WELL.  They put a new Home Goods store right next door to the dance studio!  I had brought my computer and planned to get some bills and banking done, but then I said to myself, “Self, here is an opportunity for self care.  Let us go browse in Home Goods and we will declare this activity to be self care“.

So I had just passed the ottomans and was looking at the drapes when my phone rang.  It was Nate.

“Mom, my blue belt graduation ceremony is happening right now.

“What??  I had that on the calendar for tomorrow!”

“No, it’s happening NOW!”

“Oh, ok, well……let me check to see if one of the other moms can bring Leah home or, I don’t know…ummm, gahh….”

“Mom, it’s OK.  It’s OK if you can’t come.” (this was sweet of him, but that almost made me feel worse about potentially missing it)

“I’ll see what I can do.  I’ll try my best to get there!”

So I sent a few texts to my fellow moms, but finding a last minute ride for Leah wasn’t happening.  There I sat in the parking lot, feeling terrible, frustrated with myself for writing down the wrong date, impatient for Leah’s class to be over so we could zip over and maybe catch the end of the ceremony.

We blew into the dojo at 7:45 pm.  My heart sank when I saw the almost empty parking lot–we most definitely had missed it.  We ran in the door, and there sat Nate, looking calm, cool, and collected.

“We’re so sorry honey!  I tried so hard to get here but…”

“Oh, it’s OK mom, you were right, it is tomorrow.  Sorry.”  He shrugged nonchalantly, completely oblivious to the stomach ulcer that had been forming within me for the past 45 minutes.

My face is still clenchy from that.  Or maybe it’s not from that, specifically.  Who can know these things, really?  I looked at my calendar, and during May and June we have:

  • 11 Girls on the Run practices
  • 7 dance practices
  • 1 dance rehearsal
  • 1 dance recital
  • 1 DARE graduation (we asked Leah, “What did you learn in DARE?” and she said, “um, I don’t know, I think be nice to people.”  “Didn’t you learn anything about drugs?”  we inquired.  “Oh, yeah, don’t do drugs!”)
  • 1 parade in which all of the DARE graduates wave at the crowd from a float, even though most of them can’t remember what they learned or what DARE stands for
  • 1 moving up ceremony
  • 2 5K runs
  • 2 plays
  • 2 band concerts
  • 3 field trips
  • 2 orthodontist appointments
  • 1 dentist appointment
  • 2 eye doctor appointments
  • 3 haircuts
  • 1 bikini wax (self care!)
  • 3 graduation parties
  • 1 van repair after the automatic door blew a gasket
  • 1 central A/C replacement after the old unit crapped the bed (preceded by 2 appointments for estimates)
  • 1 driveway sealing appointment
  • 1 roof tear-off/replacement
  • one husband who is going back to school full time and has a full summer course load
  • Our 20th anniversary (Honey, I got you a new van door, a central A/C unit, and a roof! You’re welcome!)

And a partridge in a pear tree.

The end.

If you need me, I will be in a padded room.

 

American Eagle, Steve Jobs, and the denim belt

I went spring shopping with my tween son the other week.  I still call him a tween, but in reality he is just a few months away from stepping over the threshold and becoming a full-fledged teen.  He kindly reminds me of this on the regular, and every single time all I can see is a picture in my mind’s eye of his sweet little baby face staring at his mommy in complete adoration.  It makes me want to weep.  Also I am pretty sure I can actually hear my ovaries drying up on their slow journey toward becoming shriveled little raisins.

One of the great things about babies is that you can dress them however you want.  I used to dress my son so cute when he was small.  Most people seem to think that all of the frilly baby girl clothes are the most fun to buy, but after a while the closet just looks like someone vomited Pepto-Bismol onto a bunch of plastic hangers.   Moms of little boys,  I’m here to tell you that shopping for baby boy’s clothes is where it’s at.

Shopping for big boy clothes is decidedly much more complicated.  First of all, there are all these rules.  Probably every boy has a different set of rules, but there is always some kind of code or formula that turns the whole thing into some sort of scavenger hunt.  In order to pass the test when shopping for my son, all clothing must adhere to the following guidelines:

-must be quick dry fabric.  But not the scratchy quick dry fabric, the smooth kind.

-no itchy tags. Even better–no tags at all.

-funeral colors only.  Black, dark black, light black, grey, or a mixture of these are permitted.  Blue is sometimes acceptable.  Neon yellow was acceptable last year but now is eschewed.  Please keep up.

-if there is some kind of visible athletic logo, only Nike is acceptable.  Under Armor–NO.  Adidas–that would be a hard no.

-pants must not have ankle cuffs of any kind.  It doesn’t matter that those cute jogger pants are everywhere and it is difficult to even find pants without ankle cuffs.  No. Cuffs.

Me:  What do you have against jogger pants with cuffs?

Son:  I don’t like them.

Me:  Well, obviously.  But what is it about them that you don’t you like?

Son:  They make me feel trapped.

Me:  They make you feel trapped?

Son:  Yes.

Me:  Trapped….in your pants?

Son:  Yes.

Me:

Son:

With that all sorted out, we set off on our quest to find quick-dry athletic clothing with no tags and no cuffs in drab colors, that would also somehow fit a man-sized boy who is all arms and legs and sharp angles with a waist size that would make a Victorian woman in a double corset jealous.

Shopping this year turned out to be even more challenging than usual, because the boy is in this awkward in-between phase where he’s too tall for the boys section, but hasn’t filled out enough for the men’s section.  Glorious.  I sat in the fitting room waiting area as my son paraded out before me about four different styles of black and grey hoodies, despite the fact that our original intent was to find clothes for spring and summer.  I suppose the black and grey hoodie that he has been wearing every single day since the beginning of the school year needed a refresh.  (Side note to say that if you are one of my son’s teachers or one of his friend’s moms, I promise you I wash the sweatshirt in question regularly, and he has a few different pairs of the same/similar black pants.  So I know it looks like he never changes his clothes, but it’s not so much of a poor hygiene situation as it is a Steve Jobs situation).

Anyhow, during the American Eagle parade of hoodies, one of the other dressing room doors opened and out walked an adorable teenage girl with long, colt-like arms and legs.  She turned to her (very youthful looking) grandma and said, “Do you think this looks too big?”

If I were a cartoon character, my eyeballs would have fallen out of their sockets at that point and I would be groping around uselessly trying to retrieve them so I could pop them back in.  I am telling you:  if the denim miniskirt this girl was trying on were any smaller, it would be a belt.  You could tell this wasn’t grandma’s first go-round with a teenage girl because, instead of answering the question, she very cautiously said, “You’re going to wear shorts underneath that, right?”  Like she knew that the inevitability of an automatic sale would shoot up if she were to respond by saying, “That is ridiculously short.  There is no way you’re wearing that!” The girl didn’t answer grandma’s question about the shorts either, crafty as she was,  but instead surveyed her reflection wearing the tiny little skirt from all angles before disappearing again into the dressing room.

This is where grandma and I locked eyes and, without a word spoken, had a moment of sisterhood.  I could see how she had blazed the path that lay before me, come out the other side, and had now brought the wisdom of our foremothers to this moment.  As my boy came out in another black hoodie, she gave an almost imperceptible nod that seemed to say, “I know.  He wears the same thing all the time.  Boys are like that. Don’t worry.”  I, in turn, lifted up a quick prayer asking for strength for the girl’s mother, who I am certain would rue the day she allowed grandma to take her daughter shopping for spring clothes, only to find that she came home with a denim belt.

 

Middle school: The purgatory of parenting

January is really the most un-wonderful time of the year.  The weather stinks, I’m still tired from the holidays, AND it’s that very awkward and terrible time when all of the Reese’s peanut butter trees are no longer in the store, but it’s too early for the Reese’s peanut butter eggs to come out.  I sat in the parking lot outside of a Five Below last week and wondered–where do all the trees go?  Because all of my local chocolate peanut butter tree selling retailers seemed like they had an abundant supply of them the week before Christmas.  Now there are none.  I can’t figure out the math on that.  Why no leftovers, Five Below?  You didn’t put them back in the stock room for next Christmas, did you?  ‘Cause that’s not fair.  I’m not sure how I will live until the retail stores decide it’s almost Easter.

Speaking of things I may not live through, it occurred to me just this week that in approximately 8 months, I will have two middle schoolers in my home.  TWO MIDDLE SCHOOLERS.  Can’t. Breathe. Must. Eat. Reese’s. Peanut. Butter. Chocolate. Trees.

I know some of you have younger kids, and aren’t there yet.  You are still in the thick of diapers and preschool and early morning wake up calls, and can’t imagine a day when you will sleep past 6 am on a weekend.  Or some of you more experienced parents are far enough away from it that you forget what it’s like, and the pain has dulled with time.  Some things are difficult to fully convey in words, but let me see if I can paint you a picture of these special, special years.

Having a middle schooler is like picking up your mail, casually opening it just like every other day, and then realizing that one of the envelopes had white powder with anthrax in it and now you have a huge crisis on your hands and also probably you are going to die.  And then 10 minutes later everything’s “fine” and the person who laced the envelope with anthrax is sitting on your couch with a headset on, happily playing a video game, while you continue working on your newest hobby which happens to be deep breathing and growing new grey hairs.

Having a middle schooler means that there are lots of tall-ish people with long limbs, big shoes, and questionable hygiene in your house, and you have to feed them pancakes a lot.  And they eat your pancakes but they don’t make eye contact with you.  And they wear a hood for extra protection indoors in case of leaking ceilings or splattering pancake syrup, I am assuming.

Having a middle schooler means that you are no longer funny.  You used to be very funny, maybe let’s say, just last year or the year before.   In fact, you used to be able to make certain people laugh hysterically just by playing peek-a-boo!  But now you’re not funny.  And every time you try to use any humor of any kind, someone in a hoodie yells, “STOP!”.

Having a middle schooler means that you question the very foundations of your education, as you stare mutely at your 7th-grader’s homework on algebraic expressions or some such, hoping to forestall the meltdown that will inevitably ensue should you be unable to not only figure out how to do it, but also figure out how to show your work using a simple 13 step process that, in your day, was a two step process.

Having a middle schooler means that you will sometimes have your sweet baby, who now weighs 100+ lbs instead of 10 lbs, come over to snuggle with you like a fully grown St. Bernard who thinks he is a lap dog.  And you love every second of it, even if his knee is in your spleen.  You don’t even care about your spleen right now, because you know that once the magic passes, your sweet, oversized baby will disappear underneath his hoodie for an indeterminate amount of time.

Having a middle schooler means that you have lots of toys, but no one plays with them.  But they also won’t let you get rid of them yet.  And they are unfortunately old enough that they notice when you try to sneak the toys out of the house to take to Goodwill.  Ah, how you miss the days when they didn’t have object permanence, or even those good times when you could trick them into thinking that if they couldn’t find a certain toy it was because they probably lost it, so maybe they should take better care of their stuff next time.

Having a middle schooler means that instead of dealing with diapers, field trips, potty training, preschool, and playdates, you now must face “crushes”, sex talks, friend drama, eye rolling, snarky comments, and poorly developed sarcasm skills.  You may really want to help them with this sarcasm piece since you know that you are so much better at it, but this is not advisable.

Having a middle schooler means that all important problems, questions, and/or feelings will absolutely need to be discussed at 9:30 PM, when you really thought you were crossing the finish line for the day.

Having a middle schooler means that your child will come home and tell you the things that happened at school, and you realize you have to relive all of the horrible things that happened to you in middle school.  Except now it’s worse, because it is happening to your tall-ish, constantly hungry, hoodie-clad baby.

Having a middle schooler means that you kind of want to call your mom and dad to complain, but you don’t because you’re pretty sure that they will laugh maniacally at you.

Having a middle schooler means that all of the above can happen to you in the span of one day, and just when you feel completely beaten down, you still get to be the soft place to land.

Having a middle schooler means that as bad as it seems for you, you know it’s worse for them.

Having a middle schooler means that you will need lots of Reese’s chocolate peanut butter trees.

 

 

Uterus on Wheels

I have a love-hate relationship with my minivan.

It’s mostly love.  Ninety percent love.  OK, eighty-five percent.  I remember being in my 20’s and scoffing at the 30- and 40-somethings around me who had embraced the minivan stage of life, and thinking, “I will NEVER be that person.  There is no way I will ever drive a minivan.  Ever”  And yet, here I am, rocking my 2011 Honda Odyssey.  Black, because that makes it look sexy.  Power doors, so that they can magically open with the light touch of a button on my key fob, fascinating and delighting my children time and time again.

My two work BFF’s and I used to have matching Honda minivans, parked side-by-side in our parking lot at work, announcing to the world our position in life without a word. My one friend coined the term “Uterus on Wheels” (UOW) when referring to her minivan, which is the most sad yet accurate description I have heard yet.  She once threatened to hang a set of truck nuts from her bumper to balance out the estrogen that seems to ooze from every crevice.  Instead she traded her UOW for a sporty little BMW.   Mid-life crisis if you ask me, and unwise at this time when storage and function simply must take precedence over vanity.

I was recently at my local Honda dealership for a service appointment, and while I was there one of the salesmen was trying to talk me into buying a new car.
“What are you driving now?”, he asked me.
“A Honda Odyssey”, I replied.
“You got kids?  Married?” he inquired, and this is where I gave him the side-eye.  I mean, does he know a lot of single gals without a partner and a gaggle of kids who drive around in minivans for giggles?

My husband was devastated when we first took the plunge into minivan-land.  We were both 32 at the time, with a 2 year-old and another on the way.  The day we picked it up and drove off the lot, he appeared humbled and ashamed, his manhood challenged.  Would he be strong enough to drive a UOW?  Could he withstand this assault on his testosterone levels?  He started calling it the “family mobile”, and I told my 2-year old that our new van was a “cool car”.  He repeated the phrase “cool car” in his cute little toddler voice which always intoned upward at the end of every phrase, so that each time he said it, it sounded like a question.  “Cool car?  Cool car?”  Allllll the way home, we rode in our cool car (?), our toddler repeating his mantra from the back seat as if to convince us both that if you say it enough, it must be true.

But my new van WAS cool, especially with my pregnant belly and a toddler in arms.   I no longer had to bend over and strain my back as I once did in my 4-door sedan to buckle my little one into his car seat.  Loading up the trunk after my weekly grocery haul was a breeze, and we had room for all the toddler and baby paraphernalia on our road trips to see family.

My kids are bigger now, but the UOW is still working overtime.  My husband has since bought a Toyota Tacoma for him to drive, likely an effort to recover his manhood.  He looks really cool in it, but guess what?  It still doesn’t haul as much stuff as my uterus.  Anytime he has to haul a big load, the uterus gets it done.  Road trips are always a job for the UOW, which easily accommodates all of the suitcases, coolers, bikes, toys, and people that we need to bring with us.  The man-mobile just can’t manage quite as much.  There may be a metaphor in there.

All that said, my UOW is not without its faults.  Her turning radius–not so good.  I had an angry man in a little compact sedan flip me off the other week when I underestimated the breadth of my turn while coming out of a school parking lot onto a narrow side street, causing him to have to hit the brakes.  Never mind that he was barreling down a side street adjacent to a school about 30 miles over the speed limit. Jerk. Move out of the way, dude–my uterus is coming at you!  Your compact sedan must yield in my wake!

Parking can be a challenge. It’s kind of like trying to wiggle into a pair of skinny jeans one size too small. On a good day if you come at it from the right angle, it’s possible.  But it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes once you get in, you can’t get out.  Then you have to open the door a tiny crack, suck in, and scootch out, praying that the person beside you won’t leave an angry note on your windshield.  And parallel parking?  Fuggeddaboutit.  Just don’t.

She’s looking a little beat up these days, my UOW.  She is bearing the scars of life with a young family.  In this way, I feel like we understand each other.  She has some exterior scratches, and the other day she had an unfortunate encounter with a deer.  She tries to be pretty, but it’s really an uphill battle for her, what with the constant stream of Goldfish crackers getting ground into her upholstery and the dead bugs freckling her front-side.  Her windows hide secret messages and pictures that can only be seen from the inside when the glass fogs up.  We could probably survive at least 2 days after an apocalypse in there between the snack remnants that have fallen between the seat cracks and the half-empty water bottles camping out in all of the cup-holders.   No one cares about washing the UOW consistently, though sometimes she is the recipient of a homespun car wash in the driveway, with kids in bathing suits who only manage to get her streaky-clean at best, and even with that her upper third goes completely untouched. I don’t think the UOW cares, nor do I, since we both know it is just a matter of time before the rain comes to wash away the soapy streaks.  She is the embodiment of functionality.  And I love her, streaks and all.

The other day, hubby said that we probably won’t need our UOW much longer, now that the kids are getting older.  He proposed getting a bigger truck for him, and downsizing my car.  “But, what about all the high-school friends I will have to shuttle to and fro?  And the family road trips?  What about college move-in days??”  He’s clearly not thinking this through all the way to the end.  We’re not ready for a vehicular hysterectomy quite yet, in my opinion.

So in the meantime, I shall drive my uterus proudly through town, racking up the miles and the memories, angering hurried men in compact sedans and inciting jeers from twenty year-olds who look upon my streaky, bug-speckled van and say, “I will never drive a minivan.”