I Don’t Know What I’m Doing….and Neither Do You.

“Opinions are like butt-holes.  Everybody has one.”
~Unknown, but I wish it was me

As a mother, I’ve grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice.

Just the other day, while in the toothpaste aisle at Target, I was accosted by a woman who approached and said, “You shouldn’t choose a toothpaste that contains aluminum.  Unless you want your kid to have Alzheimers.” 

How do you even respond to that?

When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with cancer at twenty-two weeks.  Once, while shopping, a woman approached and asked, “Don’t you think you should have been more responsible?”  

Throughout my entire illness, I never had a problem sharing my story with curious strangers.  I spent many minutes in check-out aisles and at my doctor’s appointments, chatting it up with random, but kind, strangers, about my diagnosis and how it all came to be.

But this woman?

No.

She was a twat-waffle.

So, I didn’t feel bad when I suggested that she should hop into her douche canoe and row, row, row the boat far away from me….before I did actually make an irresponsible decision.

After I gave birth, I wasn’t able to breast-feed.  My son was born one week before my last chemo cycle.  Although the medications were unable to cross through the placenta while my son was safe and snug inside my womb, they could pass through my breast milk and that wasn’t safe for him.

In the beginning, I tried to “pump and dump,” which I would need to do for a minimum of six weeks after my last chemo cycle, in order to flush out all the poisons.

I tried.  I really, really did.

I followed every bit of advice from the hospitals lactation consultants.  But nothing worked.

My body had been through a lot and it seemed to draw the line at producing breast milk.    I was never able to produce more than about a teaspoons worth, which, admittedly, made me feel like a horrible mother.

As a last ditch effort, I reached out to a La Leche Group I found online.  Now, I’m sure that if you are a regular woman, who is struggling to breast feed and looking for advice, that these groups are helpful.  In my case, not so much.

I explained my situation and for the most part, I got back the same advice the lactation consultants had given me.  In a few cases, some of the women essentially said, “I’ve got nothing, I’m sorry.”

But then, one woman decided to offer me this piece of sage advice.  “You should stop your treatments so you can breastfeed.  It’s really the most important thing you can do for your baby.”

“Um….like, more important than being alive?  Bitch.”

That’s all said.  I might have added in a GFU.

Ok, I did definitely add it in, because who says that!?

And honestly, my experiences with breast-feeding shame didn’t end there.  I found a super expensive, organic formula that made me feel a little bit better about my inability to feed my baby from my own body and I’m not even kidding, but nine times out of ten, when I was at the store purchasing his food, a woman would tell me that breast milk was best.

And you know what?  I agree!  It is THE BEST.  I get it.

But, we can’t all do it and for some, we don’t all want to do it and that’s OK too.  It really is.  Because you know what’s second best to breast?  Fed.

A few years ago, while my son played at an indoor playground, a man asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that letting your son wear a pink shirt will make him gay?”

He asked, as though being gay was a bad thing.

As if I would be all bent out of shape at the prospect of being the number one woman in my son’s life….forever.

As if a child’s preference in color, is indicative of his sexuality.

But, I suppose when you can still recall the smell of the air from the bough of the Mayflower, you can sort of be forgiven for your ignorance.

I am by no means a perfect parent.  There are days I think I’m nailing it and there are days when I wish that life allowed a control z function, so that I could have a do-over….or five.

I appreciate and even love, all those Parenting Blogs that talk honestly about the trials and tribulations of raising children.  It’s nice to find a community of like-minded parents.  But the second they hop on a sponsored soap box and start using words like “should” and “never.”  They’ve lost me.

Because, I’m sorry, Karen, you don’t know squat….unless you have a PH.D in child-rearing, in which case, what you know is still debatable.  Parenting, like everything else, is constantly evolving.

My generation is the first to raise children in the age of social media.  And I think a byproduct of that, is that we’ve lost a bit of our self-confidence and our willingness to trust our gut and our instincts as parents.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what other families are doing.  All we have to do, is open up our computers, or our phones and we are immediately transported into the lives of families all over the world, which brings a whole new meaning to the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses.”  

But the truth is, we are all just winging it and hoping we get it right.

Personally, I vaccinate, because Polio seems like a real bitch.

I don’t spank my child, because I got my ass kicked as a kid and from that, I learned only one thing.  That I don’t want to hit my child.

Depending on the circumstances, I’m a helicopter parent.  Other times, I’m that mom, sitting in the corner, reading a book.

Some days, I make homemade, from scratch, wholly organic meals and other days we go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

I allow screen time, almost every day.  Some days, it’s no more than hour.  Other days, whatever.

I am at times, authoritative and strict and other times, weak and super permissive.  Most of the time, I’m weak and super permissive.

I’m a big believer in the importance of self-care; for moms and dads.  And sometimes, I prioritize myself over everyone else.  And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.

My house is obsessively clean and organized.  Because my brain needs it to be that way and I have no problem doing all the work.  In fact, I LIKE it.

I have been a corporate career having mom and a stay-at-home mom.  Both are hard.

Sometimes, I let my son win and other times, I wipe the floor with him.

And I don’t care what kind of mom the internet, or the media tells me I should be.

I can’t force him into a specific parenting philosophy.  I know this, because I have actually tried.  But I don’t think he came out of the womb a blank slate.  He was already a person. Predisposed, I guess, to certain personality traits and needs that would and do influence his interests.

So I only care about being the kind of parent my child needs me to be.  And I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I trust myself to get it mostly right.  Because no one knows him and loves him like I do and nobody ever could.

Calm TF Down Keira….

“Its all about perfection, isn’t it?” ~Keira Knightley

Earlier this week, while perusing the internet in search of news that didn’t suck, I came across an article about a series of essays written for a book called, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies).

The book is a compilation of pieces written by a variety of women, from teenage activists to actresses; among them, Keira Knightley….I assume best known for her role in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

The essay written by Keira is called “The Weaker Sex.”  In it, Keira writes about her own experience with childbirth and then goes on to crap all over Kate Middleton.

In a book about feminism….

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When describing her own experiences with child birth, Keira writes about her vagina splitting open and her daughter being handed to her covered in blood and vernix and all the screaming, followed by the all the feeding and the shit and the vomit, etc., etc.

Now, I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 22 weeks pregnant.  My water broke at home six weeks before my due date and I arrived at the hospital wearing a Spiderman night time diaper that belonged to my step-daughter (she didn’t do princesses).

Because I was on a blood thinner as a result of clotting in my subclavian vein that had been caused by the ginormous mass that had taken up residence in my chest, I wasn’t able to get an epidural until the medication was no longer in my system; unless I wanted a spinal hematoma and I don’t know, that didn’t sound fun.  Not that my doctors were willing to take the risk anyway.

“No problem!”  Everyone told me.  “This is your first, it always takes awhile with your first.  You’ll have plenty of time for the feel good stuff before you have to start to push.”

Except, my son had other ideas.  He was ready and I had no choice but to push him out au natural.  At one point, I heard a loud popping sound and I asked, “What was that?”  

It was my tailbone….cracking.

So yeah, I get it, having a baby isn’t easy and I thought, Right on, sister.  I hear ya. 

But then, Keira started writing about Kate.  Now, let me first say this.  This isn’t a love letter to the monarchy.  I don’t get the whole British Monarchy thing.  What’s the point of being the Queen of England, if Queen Elizabeth can’t demand, “Off with her head!”  when it comes to Meghan Markle’s half-sister who won’t shut up.

Still, for whatever reason….I’m sure there is one….the monarchy is still a thing and the entire planet is apparently fascinated by the British Royal family.

These people can’t even fart without someone being around to exploit audio of it.  Their facial expressions, clothing choices, romantic relationships, family squabbles, funerals, weddings, child births, manicures, pedicures (or lack there of), are dissected and reported on daily.

So it seemed an odd sort comparison for Keira to make when, after describing her own childbirth, she segued (I had no idea that was how that word is actually spelled) to Kates.

Sure, they are both famous.

But, c’mon.

There is famous and then there is, if you so much as sneeze and a booger flies out, the entire world is going to see it….in high definition and with incredible detail….famous.

About Kate, Keira writes, “We stand and watch the TV screen. She [Kate] was out of hospital seven hours later with her face made up and high heels on. The face the world wants to see.”

Ok, yes, this happened.  Kate gave birth and then she exited the hospital, seven hours later, and she looked great.  But it’s not as though the birth didn’t happen, or that the experience of Kates labor and delivery was not every bit as emotional and raw as it is for any other woman.

And quite frankly, I think Kate got the shit end of the stick in a lot of ways.

Maybe she would have liked to have remained in the hospital for a few days post birth to rest and bond with her newborn.  But for every day she remained, I guarantee the throngs of reporters and “fans” waiting to catch a glimpse of her and the baby, would not have lessened.

Maybe she chose to leave when she did, because in doing so, it would eliminate the crowds gathered around the hospital as quickly as possible; allowing other mothers to  make their way to the hospital, settle in and have their loved ones come to visit without the crowds and the noise and the chaos encircling it.

And if she hadn’t, she would have been ripped to shreds for being selfish and self-centered.  Damned if you, damned it you don’t.

Keira goes on to write, “Hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging. Look beautiful. Look stylish, don’t show your battleground, Kate. Seven hours after your fight with life and death, seven hours after your body breaks open, and bloody, screaming life comes out. Don’t show. Don’t tell. Stand there with your girl and be shot by a pack of male photographers.”

Um, how should she have exited the hospital?   In a pair of sweat pants, or hospital scrubs with her breasts leaking milk?

Why should she be called upon, postpartum, to expose that part of herself, so intimately private, as a fuck you to the patriarchy?  I’m sorry, but that’s bull shit.

So, Kate put on a nice dress and she looked beautiful and she stood on the steps of that hospital for a moment, approximately one minute and thirty-seconds (I looked it up) and she gave what the world was going to take from her regardless.  But she chose to control the ONE thing she could in that moment; her appearance.  Christ, give the woman a break.

And yes, it’s not a realistic portrayal of what its like for the everywoman, but HELLO! Nothing about her life is what its like for the everywoman.

She is referred to as “Her Royal Highness” without a trace of snark.  She has castles….plural.  She wears tiaras, and not the kind you buy at Party City for a Bachelorette Party.  One day, she’ll be the Queen of England.

The average woman, relates to none of that.  In fact, the average woman doesn’t exactly related to Keira Knightley either.

Want to know how many times I’ve been airbrushed on the cover of a magazine, in a leather blazer and underwear, three months after giving birth?  Zero.  Zero times.  I’ve never even been asked, if you can believe it.

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Cover of Elle Magazine….the Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Sorry, sweetie, but you can’t call out one woman for acting out the same play you are, only on a bigger stage, and call it feminism.

 

The Tooth Fairy….

“It has stars in its eyes and loose teeth in its mouth.”
~A First Grade Class, Author Unknown

Over the weekend, my son, Snugs McNugget (yes, that’s his real name), lost his first tooth.

It had been wiggly for weeks, but Snugs had been hoping it would remain in his mouth until at least next year.

He’s a bit squeamish when it comes to things like blood and squished grapes on the floor of the grocery store, so he’d convinced himself that if he could just get one more year of life under his belt, he’d be ready for the loss of a tooth.

But it was not to be.  The tooth came out while he was brushing his teeth before bed.  Fortunately, there was very little blood and the only thing dramatic about the event was me, crying myself to sleep over it.

This isn’t about my inability to let go of my baby though.  It’s about the tooth fairy, who, if you think about it, is shady AF.

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After Snugs’ tiny tooth had been salvaged from the sink, his thoughts went immediately to the tooth fairy.

“Do we just put the tooth right under my pillow for her?”  Snugs asked, without the slightest bit of trepidation.  “Or, do we have to put it in something?”

“I think we can just set it here, on the nightstand for her.”  I told him.

“But it’s supposed to go under my pillow”  he said, clearly worried that by not following protocol, the tooth fairy might not come.

In that moment, it sort of dawned on me how creepy the whole tooth fairy thing is.

Here was my son, six-years old, afraid of monsters who could be lurking in his closet, but he had no qualms, ZERO, about leaving a tooth under his pillow, for a strange fairy who would be coming into our house in the middle of the night to take it away.

A few months ago, while playing with one of his cousins, I found out that Snugs had watched an episode of Walk the Prank, a show on Disney XD, in which a group of kids pull pranks on random strangers.  The episode he saw included a skit called The Pig Man.

Here’s the quick synopsis:  An unsuspecting babysitter is reading a fictitious bedtime story called, IT Hides Under the Bed, about the legend of the Pig Man, to her young charge.

As she progresses through the book, they begin to hear some scary noises, the radio turns on unexpectedly and eventually, the Pig Man makes his entrance from underneath the bed.

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The babysitter bolts from the room like her ass is on fire, leaving the kid to fend for himself, which is 100% what I would have done too.

For weeks after seeing the show, my son was terrified that the Pig Man was lurking underneath his bed.  We had to check and recheck at bedtime and the slightest nighttime  noise would send him flying from his bed and into ours.

But a fairy, who flits into bedrooms and slides her hand underneath the pillows of sleeping children in order to purchase their teeth?  Well, that’s just fine and dandy.

My son is a really smart kid.  And I’m not just saying that because he’s my kid.  For a six-year-old, he asks incredibly relevant and probing questions about politics, religion, history, books, music and people.  He’s a learner and an observer.

And yet, not once did he ask,“What will the tooth fairy do with my teeth?  Why would anyone want a collection of human baby teeth?”

He also had no interest in knowing what she might look like.  He knows what Santa and the Easter Bunny look like and neither of them are coming into his bedroom in the middle the night.  So I thought, surely he will want to know what a tooth scavenging fairy looks like.

Nope.

I wasn’t really prepared with a description anyway.

But of course, I was a kid once too.  When I learned that my teeth could be exchanged for cash, which back then, jingled instead of folded, I couldn’t yank my teeth out fast enough and I didn’t give a flying molar about any of the details either.

Later, when I discovered mine and my siblings old teeth in one of my mother’s dresser drawers, I was horrified, but I didn’t immediately suspect her as the tooth fairy.  I just wondered what had happened with the rest of the body.

In the end, I convinced Snugs his tooth would be just fine on his nightstand where it could be easily plucked up.  “I think the tooth fairy will appreciate the courtesy,” I told him.

Snugs awoke the next morning, $10 richer (the tooth fairy didn’t have any change) and still not remotely concerned, or curious about the stranger who had left it for him.

Maybe, despite it all, it’s that special brand of believing, reserved only for children, that restricts their minds to the whimsy of it all.  How sweet it is to be little.

Adventures in Room Parenting….

“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you. I’ve been physically abused in the ear!” ~Billy Madison

Last school year, I volunteered to be a room parent in my son’s classroom.  For anyone who knows me, this is a rather large departure from type.

I’m the kind of mom who will donate money and supplies and muffins from a fancy bakery and tell everyone I made them, but I’m not the room-mom type; the type who can fundraise like nobody’s business and who can devise an art museum quality craft using nothing but a pipe cleaner, multi-colored pom-pom’s and a used tissue.

But, I had decided that I wanted to start coming from a place of saying YES to things I would have normally said, “No f’ing way.”  Just like Shonda Rimes.

Actually, no.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Sometimes my mouth just writes checks my ass can’t cash.  I have no idea why.

All I know, is that I found myself writing my name on the sign-up sheet outside the classroom on Back to School night, while the other, apparently wiser, moms pretended they didn’t see it.

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For the most part, I enjoyed my role as a room parent.  The job gave me the inside scoop about events and activities occurring both in the classroom and at the school in general.

I got some extra face time with my son’s teachers, who I came to truly adore and admire and we’ve developed a nice friendship.

I also made a mom friend in my co-room-parent, Martha Stewart, who is definitely a room-mom type.  If it weren’t for Martha, I might have, most definitely would have, lost my shit after the first classroom holiday party.

I also liked getting to know the kids.  They were a lot of fun….when they weren’t picking their noses and then asking to holding my hand….or, telling me all about how they had pooped “something green and frowed-up” that very morning, right before sneezing in my face.

What I did not enjoy, were most of their parents, who whined and complained and made shit hard….

All

Year

Long

Like:

  1.  The parent who said, “Can you send out a detailed accounting of what you spent our $1.00 donation on.  You know, just want to make sure you didn’t use it pay your mortgage.  LOL”

I’m not sure if the LOL was meant to make this person sound more or less like an asshole, but either way….

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It’s not that I had a problem sharing information about what was purchased with donated money.  In fact, Martha and I sent out an update after every event that generally went something like: “Thank you parents for your donations!  The money was used to make this thing out of popsicle sticks and bandaids and look how much fun the kids had!  See the attached 427 pictures we took!”

But a detailed Excel spreadsheet?  After we’d spent literally hours organizing and preparing and then helping to facilitate these activities?

Which by the way, almost always cost substantially more than the total requested?

No.  Not going to happen.

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Also, if I was devising a plan to embezzle money from other parents, I’d be asking for a lot more than $1 per kid.

With 22 kids in the class and a co-conspirator to pay off, $11 isn’t even enough to buy breakfast at Starbucks.

If I’m going to become embroiled in scandal, it’s going to be for something huge.  Like, perhaps, smacking a certain parent with a sack full of $22 in quarters.


2.  The “shouldn’t my tax dollars be paying for this?” parents. 

Honestly, these people irritate the hell out of me.  They are always the folks who take to the community Facebook page to post things like, “There is a dusting of snow on the road and I haven’t seen a plow truck yet this morning.  Aren’t our tax dollars paying for this?”

“It’s January 2nd and the Christmas lights and wreaths are still up in town square, don’t our tax dollars pay for someone to remove them?”  (True story….someone actually posted this last winter.)  #FirstWorldProblemsMuch

SHUT UP!

If you believe that our tax dollars aren’t being managed appropriately, go to a town budget meeting, or a school board budget meeting.  Or, better yet, run for a town political position.  DO SOMETHING, other than bitch about it.

Because, I don’t want to hear it.

I’m just a volunteer trying to gather enough beaded necklaces and plastic maracas from the dollar store to stuff into a taco shaped piñata I spent thirty dollars on….out of my own pocket….because apparently no one thought to add a line item for a Cinco de Mayo party to the school budget.

I guess they were just too focused on funding those three brand new schools with state of the art technology centers and athletic facilities….along with the gazillion enrichment programs our kids have access to, like foreign language classes beginning in Kindergarten and fully funded field trips.

We’re soooo unfortunate.

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3.  The, “I’d love to help out, but I have a job” parents.

Really?  Is this still a thing?  This whole, parent vs. parent battle where we attempt to one-up and out-martyr each other in the ultimate contest of who is the better parent?

I have been a full time, big corporate job having mom, a stay-at-home mom and a combination of the two.  And you know what?  It’s all hard AF.  For different reasons and similar reasons that are big and little and complicated and full of conflicted and messy feelings.

But, thank you.  Thank you for the unnecessary reminder that you are employed.

You are better than me.  You’re more important than me.  You win.

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4.  The “We’re saving for our next trip to Disney and trying to curb unnecessary spending” parents.

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So….was I to assume that these children would not be participating in the Valentine’s Day party?

Or….that I was expected to pay their share?

I’ll let you guess.


5.  The “Oops, I know it’s the morning of and I signed up to send in (insert everything from all the paper products and cutlery, to half the supplies needed for a project) but I forgot” parents.

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Want to know how easy it is to find Halloween decorations and jingle bells and yarn and sand castle picture frame kits at 6:00am?

Zero easy.


So, when I ran into the PTO Room Parent Coordinator at Target the other day, because of course I did, and she asked, “So, are you ready to be a first grade room parent?”

I didn’t hesitate a bit when I said, “Fuck no.”   (Ok, I didn’t actually say fuck, but it was implied).

Her:  Surely you can’t be serious?

Me:  I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.  (This didn’t happen either, I just wish it had)  #Airplane

But I did say no.

It’s a hard pass for me Karen, but let me know if you need any muffins, or money.

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