Two summer vacations down, one to go. Myrtle Beach, the second of our jaunts this season, was, like last year, alternately exhilarating and exhausting. We spent nearly every day on the beach, chasing LM around to make sure he didn’t get swept away by waves. That kid is fearless. We attended animatronic dinosaur exhibitions, zoos and pirate boat rides — enjoyable because of the fascinated look on LM’s face, but not so much fun for ourselves.
Foggy Daddy and I, though, did make it out for one wonderful date night on the last night of our trip. Two hours of kid-free bliss. Where did we go? Wicked Tuna, of course, in an effort to avenge our previous date night semi-fail there last year. If you remember, at our previous excursion to that restaurant we were seated not at the choice tables along the deck’s railing with an uncompromised view of the marina, but at the tarp-covered section generally filled with large family parties. Horror of horrors! The last thing you want to see on a date night are large family parties, am I right?
I was determined not to let that happen this year. As we drove to the restaurant, I psyched myself up to request the table I wanted. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer, dammit! And then…I chickened out and made Foggy Daddy do it as I parked the car. But, he succeeded, sending me a text that read, “You will be very happy.”
OK, so it wasn’t the best table in the house (it was still right next to the family groups) but, after making FD switch seats with me, I had my view. Success!
My drink came out on time and was yummy.
My “dragon egg” appetizer was interestingly delicious, and somehow seemed apropos. (Maybe because I secretly consider myself a mother of dragons. C’mon, LM is a bit like an unruly, fire-breathing monster, isn’t he?)
And although FD’s appetizer didn’t come out on time (which is exactly what happened last year!), it made it out with the main meal, was yummy, and ended up scoring us a discount on the bill (at the waiter’s insistence, not ours).
So, overall, Wicked Tuna has made amends for the semi-fail of last year. Lessons learned: If you want something, ask for it, instead of stewing about it and writing a blog post later. Secondarily, stop making a big deal out of nothing. Appreciate that you even were able to do a date night in the first place. (Haha, who am I kidding? I’m a perfectionist, even about date nights.)
After dinner, we again strolled along the marsh walk. It was sunset, and we lingered in the fading light. People kayaked and boated on the water. I was oddly missing my kid-free life — ironic because back then, I would have given anything to have a child.
As we took one last selfie before leaving, I realized that my only date night regret was that it couldn’t have lasted longer.
How often do you get to go on date nights? Do you miss your pre-kid days?
Ah, summer. It always goes by so fast. For the last two years, this has been compounded by taking not one, not two, but three trips (notice I did not say “vacations”), traveling with my toddler. Each trip was separated by less than two weeks, which is really too small a time to really get unpacked and settled back into a routine. This had the end result of taking up almost two months’ time — practically the whole summer.
This year, we are planning the same thing. A long July Fourth weekend at my aunt and uncle’s lake house in rural Virginia. A trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where my inlaws have a condo. A week-long stay at the Jersey shore with my family.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
And it is. But it’s also a lot of work.
I’m still getting the hang of this traveling with toddlers thing. As is most often the case as a parent, our own fun is a distant second to that of our children’s. So we are like the man behind the curtain, pulling strings to make sure that everything is magical in their eyes. All of the preparation, all of the food and entertainment, all of the concerns about safety occupy our trip, in the hope that fun is the only thing that occupies theirs.
OK, so this year I geared up for the first of the three trips. The lake house. The lake house presented a series of challenges:
- We were sharing the house with my aunt and uncle, my two cousins (one in high school and one in college), my cousin’s friend, my parents, my sister, her husband and their two kids. Including us, that’s 14 people. FOURTEEN.
- There isn’t really a yard in which the kids can run around in.
- The backyard is a series of steps leading down to a dock.
- The water off the dock is very deep.
Then I have the series of particular challenges presented by my two-year-old:
- He’s prone to tantrums because of his communication and sensory processing issues.
- Most people think sensory processing issues don’t even exist.
- He’s not a good sleeper on vacation
- He’s a picky eater. Like really picky.
- If I don’t do what he wants (like bring him in bed with us or give him the food he wants), he will throw a major tantrum.
- No one wants to hear tantrums.
So how’d I do? Well, everyone emerged from the weekend safe and sound, so that’s the most important thing. But there were tantrums, tears (on my part) and some acts of questionable parenting (you want to eat a bazillion chips that will ruin your dinner? Go ahead, as long as it keeps you quiet).
Traveling with your toddler and other people, you have to pick your battles. Do you want to enforce all the rules to a T, or do you want a toddler who’s not screaming? It’s picking the lesser of two evils.
Another problem for us is that LM is all about Daddy whenever Daddy’s around. He wants nothing to do with me. So again, this meant that either Foggy Daddy had to do everything with LM, or we had to listen to him scream. After hearing FD complain about having to put LM to bed again, I told him I would do it. A half an hour of screaming toddler later while his cousins were trying to sleep in the next room, I frantically texted FD: “Please. He wants you not me.” After being relieved of my bedtime duties, I headed upstairs and promptly broke into tears.
The challenges around the water, though, terrified me the most. We came armed with the bubble LM wears for swim class, a puddle jumper, and a life jacket. LM refused the Coast Guard-approved puddle jumper and instead would only wear the bubble, which he was used to. But this unnerved me while swimming in deep water, even though of course one of us was with him at all times. His joy at jumping in and swimming around, though, tempered my fear somewhat.
Going out on the boat, however, he flat out refused the life jacket. FD and LM remained on the dock as we prepared to depart. But at the last minute, FD pinned him down on the ground, strapped the life jacket on as LM screamed, and then handed him over the side of the boat. As we motored out, LM continued to wail, and I felt the heat rise inside me again. We should have just left him home, I thought. Now he’s ruining everyone’s trip. But as soon as we got moving, he relaxed. Soon, he was asking for “more fast.”
Surprisingly, the car rides (eight hours each way) were the easiest part of traveling. LM took a long, four-hour nap, and then watched videos the rest of the time. Great parenting? Probably not, but what are the options for a kid who doesn’t like coloring or other sedentary activities that can be done in the car?
But probably the best moments of the trip occurred when I least expected them to. We decided to take LM to watch the fireworks, which would keep him out past his bedtime. I assumed they would be at nine — but it turns out they weren’t happening until 10. Whoops. But we weren’t going to miss them (great parenting again, I know). Instead, we visited the pre-show carnival. Let me tell you, a merry-go-round is actually quite scary when you realize you’re going kind of fast and the only thing keeping your toddler from flying off is your arms around his waist — and I could barely reach him when his horse’s pole rose up.
As the light faded, I realized I had forgotten the glow sticks I bought purposefully for the occasion. Instead, we let LM pick out a glow toy (a light saber — I groaned as I realized I had just bought him his first weapon), and walked back to our spot to watch the fireworks. The adults threw around a football, and LM wanted to join in too. And then as we settled into our lawn chairs, we read LM a story by the glow of the light saber. Then he drifted off to sleep — completely missing the fireworks. (Bonus to having a hard of hearing kid — loud noises aren’t as much of a problem.)
It wasn’t easy, but we made it through. It took a lot out of me, though, which is in part why this post was delayed (don’t be surprised if the same happens in the next few weeks after our next two trips). But the fun LM had made it all worth it. I guess our string-pulling worked.
Next stop: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Do you find trips with your toddler difficult? Any tips you would recommend?
Every year, summer sneaks up on me. It always seems like winter lags on, reluctant to leave. We have chilly spring days, followed by one teasingly hot week, followed by the cold again. I put away our winter coats, only to have to take them out again.
Then, somehow, it’s summer again. The scorchers are here to stay, and the sweaters that have made a pile on the chair in my room need to get washed and put away until the fall. Schools let out, flooding my FB feed with last day of school and prom and graduation pics. Summer is here.
But it’s easy to remain caught up with everyday chores and routines and responsibilities. All of a sudden I realize it’s the longest day of the year. Summer is in full swing, and if I don’t stop and look around, I might miss it.
Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it?” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
It’s almost the end of June and we haven’t made it to the beach yet. I’m working out possible vacations in July with my fertility testing (yep, that’s starting up again). I’m working on my summer bucket list (strawberry picking: check; zoo: check) so that I won’t miss anything.
Last year I mourned the end of summer because I felt like I had let it slip by. I hadn’t fully embraced it or been present for it. I hadn’t been mindful. And before I knew it, it was gone.
When you were young, didn’t it seem like summer lasted forever? I remember being bored, as day after hot and lazy day passed by. But like everything in life, summer seems sped up now that I’m an adult.
In the midst of everything I have going on right now (writing, fertility treatments, preschool evaluations, LM’s hearing stuff), I’m going to try my hardest to be present. I’m going to try to take the time to enjoy the season.
Every time of year has its traditions, but summer seems the most timeless of all. I’m not sure why this is; maybe it has something to do with the natural, organic way it seems to affect people. Christmas is wonderful, but let’s face it, grownups made up the traditions of trimming trees and opening presents. But let kids loose in summer, and they do what kids have been doing forever: running in the grass, digging in the sand, catching lightning bugs, playing outside late into the dusk, swimming in lakes and the ocean. There’s a natural inevitability to it that the rest of the year doesn’t possess.
I love the way the summer encourages us to relax and take it easy. I need that, because I can get a bit caught up in all the to-do’s of life. Summer reminds us to let them go, to sit back and relax. And as LM grows older, I can’t wait to see him more fully enjoy the summer.
So welcome back, summer. I promise to try to be present while you are with us. I promise to take advantage of your sunshine and your long days. I promise to realize how lucky I am to be able to watch my son discover your charms. I promise to fully embrace you, and to encourage my child to do the same.
Do you love summer? What’s on your bucket list this year?
I hate bringing up tragedies involving children. I constantly go there in my head, worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. Getting blindsided by these terrible stories have made me want to stop reading social media, and even watching television. So I really hesitate to talk about the most recent tragedy on this blog. But I think it’s important not just because of what happened and the lessons we can learn from it (i.e., you’re never safe from gators in Florida), but because of our reaction: Blame.
Blame Disney for not having better signage — although I agree that would help. “No swimming” to me means “The water is gross” or “There’s no lifeguard here” not “You may be eaten by a wild animal.” Plus, gators could attack people who are at the water’s edge. Why were there even “movies on the beach” when alligators could be lurking on said beach?
Blame the parents — why were they letting their kid wade in the water at 8 o’clock at night? Why weren’t they right next to him? Well, maybe they were right next to him. I couldn’t stop my kid from falling into a coffee table and needing 12 stitches when I was right next to him. I doubt I could have stopped a four to seven foot gator that was faster than it looked. As for why they were out so late, blame the movie night on the beach for that.
But didn’t they think about the gators? They were from Nebraska. Without signs or some kind of literature distributed to guests, how would they know? What’s common knowledge for Florida residents or people who travel to the south frequently might not be on the radar of midwesterners. This is supposed to be a safe place. The happiest place on earth.
But none of this is really the point. We could debate all day long how this could have been prevented. No doubt those parents will be thinking about that for the rest of their lives. Woulda coulda shoulda. Hindsight is 20/20. Disney will make the appropriate corrections, and those parents will replay the night in their minds. “If only we had done things differently,” they will ask themselves.
So why the endless debates? Why, after a child gets into a gorilla pit and a $15,000 Lego exhibit is destroyed by a kid and a child is killed by an alligator, do we — the internet, strangers — feel the need to play the blame game?
I thought it was about sanctimommies. But I think it’s actually bigger than that.
It’s actually not about the parents of the child at all. Like any bullying, it’s not about the victims. It’s about the bullies themselves.
Bullies appear confident, arrogant, full of swagger and self-assuredness. Bullies can be mean, but they are always sure they’re right. Bullies are strong.
Except they’re not. Not at all.
Bullies are scared. Bullies are cowards. Bullies bully because they lack confidence, and bullying makes them feel like they have power over something. Bullies know, deep down, that they are not right. Bullies have no self-awareness. They bully to feel better about themselves.
Bullies aren’t just kids. Bullies can be grown-ass adults who are scared shitless that something like this could happen to them. But instead of facing up to that, they deny it. They say they are sure, 100 percent positive, that such a tragedy could never, in fact, happen to them. That their parenting skills and abilities are so much better than these people’s, or the gorilla mom’s, or the Lego parents’, that they spew all over the internet how they would have done it differently. But deep down they must know it’s not true.
It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.
What’s more, it’s easy to pretend that everything in life happens for a reason. There is perhaps no platitude I hate more. Maybe it works when you’re talking about things that were unplanned but had positive outcomes. But you know what it doesn’t work for? Death.
Death, especially when it affects the young, is tragic and horrible and doesn’t make sense. You can try to look for an explanation, but there is no rhyme or reason to it. It affects good people and bad people. It isn’t just doled out to people who deserve it. It’s chaotic and unpredictable.
Kids themselves are chaotic and unpredictable. Side note: my son is now very into dinosaurs, so I showed him the parts of Jurassic Park that aren’t violent (pretty much only the baby velociraptor being born and the sick triceratops). But watching further in after he’d gone to bed, I realized how much I related to Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) theory of chaos, particularly as it applies to children:
I love kids! Anything can and does happen.”
Dr. Malcolm gets it. You cannot say with total certainty what will happen to your children. This is why parenting is so terrifying. You can watch them. You can try to follow all the rules. You can feed your kid all organic and make sure his car seat is buckled properly and teach him how to cross the street and obey the no swimming sign.
Except maybe one time you make a mistake. You misinterpret the no swimming sign, because that sign is not very clear. And something tragic happens. Because you are human. Because you erred. Because you were not infallible.
For the rest of us, we don’t want to believe that we could have been that parent. So if we can find someone or something to blame, it will protect against it ever happening to us. If it is everyone’s fault but our own, nothing tragic will ever befall us or our kids.
But life — and death — doesn’t work that way. The world does not follow set patterns. Bad things happen to good people. Horrific tragedies don’t make sense. We spend our life hoping and praying that one doesn’t happen to us. But it could, and we have to live with that.
Where is God in all this? Funny you should ask. I have no idea. But I certainly don’t believe there is some big plan that we’re all a part of. Because death is never a good thing, unless maybe the person was old or suffering. How can the death of a child be part of a plan? I’m reminded of a quote from the fantastic movie Rabbit Hole, about a mom (Nicole Kidman) whose son is hit by a car and killed in front of her home. She goes to a support group, and a fellow parent who’d lost a child (funny how there’s no one word for that, like there is for widow or orphan) says that God must have needed their child to be an angel. Nicole thinks this is bunk:
Why didn’t He just make one? I mean, He’s God after all. Why didn’t He just make another angel?”
Look, I’ve been through six miscarriages. I’ve held my tiny baby of 17 weeks gestation in my arms. Like those who can see thestrals in Harry Potter, I’m a member of that unfortunate club that has known death. So I’ve done a lot of soul-searching about what bad things mean in the universe. I’ve tried and tried to come up with an explanation. Brighter minds than mine have spent their whole lives trying to figure that out. So what did I discover?
Nothing. Not a damn thing.
Basically, shit happens. Sorry, but it does. The world is full of chaos, uncertainty and horrible things. As much as the blame-gamers want to find a cause, because then they can protect themselves against it, it just doesn’t exist. We are human and we make mistakes. Accidents happen. Obviously reasonable safety precautions should be made. But beyond that, we’re on our own.
Does this sound really, really negative? Maybe. But for me realizing this was freeing, to accept that I don’t have power over death, that no one does, maybe not even God. So I can just live every day fully and realize that each day is valuable in and of itself. Nothing is guaranteed, so I try not to take anything for granted. And while I still see danger and tragedy lurking around every corner, I’ve come to realize that I can only do my best and spend the time I have here wisely.
Strangely, this outlook has allowed me to see not only the tragic things in life for what they are (meaningless), but the good things in life for what they are (meaningful). I can appreciate the birds chirping and the flowers blooming and the wind blowing while I sit outside and watch my son play. Things that seemed mundane and ordinary are special. Tradition and family and love — these are the things I’m trying to focus on now, not all the negative stuff. We simply don’t have the time on this planet to do that.
I’ve stopped trying to figure it out. I’ve stopped trying to find blame. It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
What do you think about placing blame when tragedy occurs? How do you find meaning in the universe when bad things happen?
OK, OK. I know we don’t need yet another post on the boy who fell into the gorilla pit. But on the heels of that, another story of an unruly child, this time a boy who knocked over a Lego sculpture worth $15,000, has come out.
Cue the sanctimommy outcry, yet again: “Who was watching that child?” “Parents today need to mind their kids and teach them rules!” “Kids are out of control!”
The media has now realized that any story of a child misbehaving will sell, which means they run more of these stories, which means that it appears we have an epidemic on our hands.
Remember the song “Kids” from the musical Bye, Bye Birdie? This is how it goes:
Kids, I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today
Kids, who can understand anything they say?
Kids, they are disobedient, disrespectful oafs
Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy, loafers
And while we’re on the subject
Kids, you can talk and talk till your face is blue
Kids, but they still do just what they want to do
Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?
This song was written in the 1950s.
Every generation thinks there is something the matter with kids today. The only difference is that lately, we’re blaming the parents. Parents, says your friendly neighborhood sanctimommy, should have the superhuman ability to control every single thing their kid is going to say and do at every moment of every day.
One might argue the internet is to blame for the rise of the santimommy. Anonymous commenting has allowed us to hide behind our computer and spew all the pent-up aggression from our actual, real lives. But the ironic thing is that even with Facebook commenting, which reveals your identity (and now you’re often even required to be logged in through Facebook to comment on a post on another website) the problem persists. We know who the sanctimommies (and daddies) are. They’re no longer anonymous. And they’re continuing to do it anyway.
This shows the breadth of the parenting experience. While one mom (um, me) might say, “Yeah, I could totally see my wild child doing that” other parents who, presumably, have demure, malleable children say, “My kid would never do that.”
This irks me. So what if YOUR kid would never do that? Do you think that’s because of your awesome parenting? It may be because you lucked out and have a kid whose instinct is to follow direction.
Now, this is not to say that there are not parents who don’t look after their kids. Yes, of course there are parents who are not giving their kid the attention that they should. But how do we know what happened in these incidents? Were we there when the kid got into the gorilla pit? Were we there when the kid knocked over the Lego sculpture? No. So why are we jumping to conclusions?
I have also heard a few parents, who I know personally, say that there’s no way “it only took a second.” This boggles me, because, uh, yeah, it only takes a second for a kid to dart away. Then the panic ensues. While you are frantically looking for your child who was just by your side a moment ago, he has snuck to the front of the crowd, and the people are blocking your view so you can’t see him climbing over the fence. In those minutes you are looking around, your kid is on the other side, through the bushes and down into the moat.
Why people are questioning how quickly it could happen is a mystery to me. It takes a second for a kid to slip out of sight. What follows is that they’re getting into mischief while you’re running around like a crazy person trying to find them. Even more understandable is the Lego exhibit. One whack of a kid’s arm and the whole thing could topple. I can’t even stop LM from knocking over other kids’ towers when they play with blocks.
So whether your own kid would do such a thing is not the point. The point is that other kids may, and can. But what about the notion you should watch your kids? Let me tell you, when you have a strong-willed kid, it’s hard. If I am not physically connected to him, I can’t even turn my head for a moment. This is stressful. There have been times I forgot to get my keys out of my bag before we left wherever we were, and then I was stuck because I couldn’t reach in without letting go of LM’s hand or turning my head away in a parking lot, which I knew wouldn’t be safe to do. This created some awkward maneuvering.
OK but if that’s what your child is like, shouldn’t you just be prepared to be attached to them? Shouldn’t you just get a leash? Maybe, yes. I take all the precautions I can. But we are human. When you have a child like that, who, as much as you try to teach him the rules insists on pushing every conceivable boundary, it’s exhausting. I am already working that much harder than the parents of the so-called “easy” children. I’m not infallible, and I’m tired. If I make a mistake, I just hope it doesn’t have the kinds of dire consequences as these stories did.
And chances are, a lot of the sanctimommy parents have had those moments—but luckily, nothing bad happened, so they’ve forgotten. And then, somehow, these reasonable, nice people turn into assholes, blaming and judging and getting on their high horse like they are the Perfect Parent. Honestly, I am at a loss at this attitude. What gives you the right to assume what happened at the zoo that day, or at that Lego exhibit? Why are you playing into the media’s contention that unsupervised children are now suddenly a huge problem? Why don’t you realize that this is the same argument that’s been presented about children since the generation gap began in the 1950s?
I have to tell you, I live in constant fear of what my kid might do. Remember my post about the tragedy that didn’t happen? I see these things in my mind’s eye. Sometimes I’m scared to go outside with LM because he’s unpredictable. I can’t trust him. And I’m trying my damnedest to teach him the rules, so don’t you dare tell me I’m a neglectful parent. You just don’t know how hard it is.
The most insightful take on the gorilla incident came, not surprisingly, from The New York Times. The Well Family editor, KJ Dell’Antonia, writes:
For parents who are raising a risk-taking child, the story gives us pause. We know most trips out of the house require extra precautions. Closed doors and barred gates are like beacons to some kids, just waiting to be breached or climbed.
Who does that sound like to you? (Here’s a hint.) She goes on to quote an expert:
Those are children who are more likely to react to their environment, to become highly stimulated and to struggle with impulse control. “They’re high energy, they’re intense, and they’re very committed to their goals.”
This is LM to a T. So while all these other parents are saying, “How could this happen?” I know only too well. I just pray it never happens to me.
Would you admit to being a sanctimommy? What do you think about strong-willed children? Do you still blame the parents for their actions?
I am thrilled to be published in The New York Times today, talking about an issue I’m passionate about: my son and his hearing loss.
How to address hearing loss in children is very controversial, which I didn’t realize until I was faced with it in my own child. I felt overwhelmed by the pressures to use sign language, or not. I’m not here to fuel that debate or say one side or another is “right.” Truth is, every child is different and deserves to be treated that way. I do want to thank everyone who offered me guidance, even if I didn’t take your advice! Information gathering is key so that parents can make their own decisions. I just wish there was not so much internal arguing among deaf people, advocates, doctors etc — as I say in the piece, what would help families is better support for their choices, whatever they are.
Remember when I said I was going to have to have fibroid surgery? Well, it’s already happened. It’s funny how sometimes you wait so long for something and then, bam!, it’s over. Here’s how it happened.
The surgeon at my fertility practice was booked up until the fall (how does that happen?), so I started looking into other surgeons who could do it. My fertility doctor mentioned one that was not in my plan, so I had to cross him off the list. When I asked her for other recommendations, she told me to look for a gynecological oncologist. A Google search for my local hospital revealed a surgeon whose name sounded familiar—sure enough, a friend had recommended him to me weeks earlier, but I had forgotten. I made an appointment a month away.
But once we had that appointment, things moved quickly. He seemed to know right away what needed to be done—after all, fibroid removal is probably an easy case for him. Although I still hadn’t been sure if I wanted to proceed with the surgery, after talking with him I realized if I wanted any chance of getting pregnant again I would have to do it. Plus, he said there was a 50/50 chance I’d need the fibroid removed at some point in the future. So we decided on the spot to book the surgery.
He had said to expect to wait two to three weeks for the surgery, but when the nurse came in she offered us a date only a little over a week away—May 10.
And now it’s over. I haven’t been able to blog because the recovery was a little tougher than I expected. It was full-on cut-me-open surgery, much like a C-section. The surgeon removed four fibroids, one of which was on my right tube, so he went ahead and took that out, too. Two nights in the hospital, and then the rest of the week in bed at home. And it still hurts.
But the most difficult part of the whole thing was what to do with LM. I certainly couldn’t take care of him—even now that I’m feeling a little better, he requires constant wrangling and has lately been prone to hitting and kicking. And I can barely walk.
Thanks to an army of grandparents, we are making it work. To be honest, I was looking forward to having a break from LM. He has just been so tough to handle lately, and motherhood is a 24/7 job. There are no days off. So having a week or so to rest and recuperate sounded really nice.
But I didn’t count on the boredom, even depression, that comes from being stuck in bed while life goes on around you. At first it was a welcome change, but as whole days went by when I didn’t see LM, I started to actually miss him. Someone else was holding him and taking him places and putting him to bed. Someone else was playing with him and feeding him and singing with him.
After a couple days at home Foggy Daddy brought LM into the bedroom to see me. We had tried to keep him away, lest his penchant for hitting was directed at my stomach. Somehow he looked older. Somehow he sounded like he had more words and was talking more. Something was just, I don’t know, different about him.
And when he left the room, I missed him.
I realized it was the longest I’d gone without picking up my child since he was born. I was able to give him a cursory kiss, but I longed to hold him and feel his weight on me as he napped on my shoulder. I longed to be the one he called for, the one who comforted him. Did he even miss me?
I’m sure that when I get back on my feet, I’ll wonder what in the world I was thinking. I’m sure when I’m back in the routine of caring for LM I’ll want another break, and wish I hadn’t squandered this one missing him. But if anything, this break gave me a chance to pause and to reflect on my place as LM’s mother. Yes, it’s unrelenting and tough. But it’s also filled with precious moments of snuggles and kissing and brushing the hair away from his forehead. Of watching his little mouth move as he chews. Of picking him up and swinging him around. Of just pure joy.
I’d forgotten that. I’m glad one of the side effects of surgery was to help me remember.
I just spent twenty minutes searching Facebook to a link for a mom blogger opportunity I had seen that I forgot to mark as “saved.” I went back and forth, back and forth, and just couldn’t find it. I Googled it. Nothing. Awesome, another wasted opportunity, I thought. What if that was my big chance? All because I forgot to click “save”?
This is what I do. I push and push and push myself and then can’t forgive myself when something falls through the cracks. When I can’t be everything to everyone at every minute. When I feel like I’m not good enough at feeding LM the right foods, or teaching him enough skills, or getting him on a better sleeping schedule. When I feel like I need to pitch more stories, promote my work more, submit more, write more. When I think about how someone else is a better writer than me, a better mom than me, a better friend than me, a better wife than me.
I find the smallest thing — so what that I didn’t save a FB link? Is it the end of the world? — and turn it into something major, as if I’ve missed out on the greatest thing to come my way ever.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. I’m not doing anything special, as far as I know. Maybe my husband has something planned. Maybe not. But it shouldn’t really matter, because that’s just looking for more outside validation, for someone else to tell me I’m doing a good enough job.
What I really need is to tell that to myself.
I need to forgive myself my little faux pas and flaws. I need to accept that I’m not going to be able to keep every ball in the air. Some are bound to drop.
This is OK.
I know we’ve all heard about “mom guilt” and how we have to accept that we can’t be the perfect mother. I know that rationally. But emotionally, I’m still struggling. I don’t think I quite believe that I am good enough. I focus on every mistake I make and blow off my successes. I’m doing it now, for God’s sake — I’m critiquing myself for my habit of critiquing myself!
Where does it end?
Maybe some moms have figured out how to get off the merry-go-round of guilt. Maybe they’ve managed to side-step the downward vortex of perfection seeking. But I feel like I’m being sucked in, and I’m drowning with the pressure of it all.
So, this Mother’s Day I need to stop. Just stop. At least for one day allow myself not to be perfect. And what’s more, to not even attempt to be perfect. Just have total acceptance of myself. As a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a person.
I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? Who feels like it’s just all too much and I can’t keep my head above water? OK, so I know I have additional challenges: LM’s hearing loss and everything that goes along with it (don’t even get me started on fighting with the school district about preschool). Trying to have another child (still in limbo on that one). These are not things that all other moms have to deal with.
Other moms also have housecleaners and gardeners and money to redecorate and nannies to watch their kids so they can go to the gym more than once a week and lose that extra 15 pounds they’ve been carrying since they had a baby and just can’t seem to get rid of. Maybe they have huge houses and swimming pools and finished basements with movie rooms. Maybe if they do have deaf children they can afford to move to the rich town where the school for the deaf is so they can be in the right school district and not have to fight to make sure their kid gets the best education.
Wait, I’m doing it again, aren’t I?
Stop comparing yourself. Just stop. Some other moms will always have more than you — but some will also have less. Much less.
Ugh, so you’re saying I’m an awful person for wanting a bigger house because other moms are living in poverty? I’m so selfish.
Yes, you are selfish. But it’s OK to be selfish. Everyone is selfish.
No they’re not.
Well maybe not everybody, but it’s a natural reaction in life to want more, isn’t it? Some people just have this drive in them, which is good because it propels them to achieve things. But it’s also bad because it never ends. When you achieve a goal, you just set a new one. You think you can reach the top of the mountain, but it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
So what do I do?
I don’t know, I guess it’s about finding balance. A balance between accepting your life and striving for more. Between being happy with what you have and recognizing that it’s human nature to feel bad about what you don’t. To realize that everyone has their hardships in life, and so you just can’t compare. You are not perfect. They are not perfect.
This is what I’m trying to give myself this Mother’s Day. Permission to not be perfect, to want to be perfect, to feel bad about wanting to be perfect, to feel good about striving for perfection, to recognize it’s not necessary to strive for perfection.
I’m going to try to see myself though LM’s eyes. Through my husband’s eyes and my family’s eyes and my friend’s eyes.
I’m not a perfect mom. But I’m a good enough mom.
What gifts are you giving yourself for Mother’s Day?
When I first heard about this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week theme, I admit I was a bit confused. Who exactly is supposed to “Start Asking”? Is it the fertile people who already don’t have a clue how to talk about infertility, and often ask the wrong questions anyway?
Turns out, it’s us, the infertile community, that should be asking the questions, according to RESOLVE, the organization behind NIAW 2016, April 24-30. We should be asking for better insurance coverage of fertility treatments. We should be asking the media to cover infertility in a real way, instead of a sensationalized one. We should be asking our family and friends to support us.
This is all so important, and I applaud RESOLVE for putting forth these questions. But going back to my original presumption—what about the fertile people? I would argue that instead of putting the onus on the infertility community to promote awareness, we extend that to fertile people as well. What about that annoying aunt who asks when you’re going to have children? What about those clueless friends who wonder why you won’t come to their baby shower? These people don’t understand what to ask, or how.
I wrote on this blog about the most ignorant question, and later posted it on The Huffington Post as well. The piece, “It’s None of Your Business How Many Children I’m Having,” got over 300 comments on the site. People argued about whether or not this guy, a stranger who asked across a table full of people whether and when I would be trying for a baseball team, was in the right or the wrong. “Can’t people ask about anything anymore without offending someone?” people lamented.
The thing is, there are times and places for everything. In fact, in that very same piece I discuss how a similar question had been asked by the colorist at my hair salon. But because she asked gently—”Do you think you’ll have more children?”—in the relative privacy of the hairdresser’s chair, my hackles didn’t get raised, and I felt comfortable revealing that I’d love another, but we’d had trouble getting pregnant.
So it’s really not about whether you should ask but rather about how you should ask. And when you do ask, don’t ever assume. Don’t assume a woman isn’t currently pregnant and just not ready to reveal it. Don’t assume a woman isn’t currently going through a miscarriage. Don’t assume that people can have babies and want to try the reproductive feat of achieving a sports team. Don’t assume a couple even wants children in the first place.
I would argue that the criticism against my HuffPo piece—that we live in a culture where no one is allowed to talk about anything—is the exact opposite of how I feel. In fact, I feel like maybe a better theme for NIAW might have been “Start Talking.” Because that’s the real problem: No one talks about infertility. People don’t even really realize it exists. It’s something that happens to others, so people assume those they know and talk to can actually have children. True, people generally can have kids. But that’s the point of “awareness:” People become “aware” that infertility exists for one in eight couples. Maybe it exists for your sister or your coworker or your friend or your neighbor. Or the person you just met sitting across from you at a crowded table.
Infertility awareness can be about inspiring infertiles to make a difference. But it can, and should, be about getting others to understand and to promote it as well. Wouldn’t it be great if fertile people joined in the cause too? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they also posted on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word and hashtag #NIAW and #StartAsking? That’s where we should be headed. After all, not everyone who wears a red ribbon has AIDS or who does a run/walk for breast cancer has it themselves. The people who do those things maybe know someone affected (a mom, sister or friend who had breast cancer), or maybe they are just recognizing the importance of a cause and are jumping on board.
That’s what we should want. That’s what I’m going to #StartAsking for.
How aware are you of infertility among your family and friends? If you are infertile yourself, do you wish you had more support from fertiles?
Dear ones (that’s how Elizabeth Gilbert addresses her Facebook posts, and I have a bit of a writer’s crush on her right now),
My book signing for Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It went really well. As my last post indicated, I was super nervous. I used up so much emotional energy that the next day I crashed, unable to do much of anything or even get out of my pajamas.
What’s the big deal, you ask? It was only a fifteen minute speech and a few questions afterward. It wasn’t like I was giving a day-long presentation at a medical conference or presenting at the Oscars.
You’re right, dear ones. Maybe it wasn’t really that big a deal. But why it was so difficult for me is that I am an introvert. Some people might be surprised to hear this. I am, generally, pretty friendly. And as the book event shows, I am not bad at public speaking.
But it’s all a lie.
In middle school, I was painfully shy. It was incredibly hard for me to make friends. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in at everyone else having a good time, flirting with boys and feeling part of a group. Although I wasn’t friendless and I generally wasn’t picked on, I was something possibly even worse: I was invisible.
Gradually I worked through my insecurities. Even as an adult, though, making friends remains a challenge. I am not one of those people who talks to people sitting next to them on airplanes. I do not make friends easily wherever I go. I often still feel awkward, uncomfortable, unsure of what to say. But I’ve gotten really good at faking it, at putting on the friendly mask of an extrovert. This has helped me make a lot of very good mom friends.
I don’t mean to say that I’m fake. I am genuine in my emotions, the stories I tell and the interest I show in others. It’s just that it doesn’t come naturally to express those things. I have to force myself to come out of my shell and relate to others directly instead of through words on the page, at which I am infinitely better.
Maybe all my years of being an outside observer served to make me a better writer. But they didn’t help me feel like I was participating in life instead of watching it. So now, I’m trying to forget my fears and insecurities and to take that wall down between my internal self and my outward expression.
To quote Forgetting Sarah Marshall: “Dude, get out of your head, it’s really nice out here!”
How am I doing?
Are you an introvert? How do you deal with making mom friends? How do you deal with professional presentations or other work-related speaking?
Some photos from my book signing for Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: