Time To Say Goodbye

I feel like I’ve lived a million lives in my one life, though motherhood is hands down my most fulfilling chapter. It’s the chapter that won’t end–it will just expand into more page turns. It’s the chapter that thank god will see me to the end and still leave me wishing for more. Kids are unquenchable and insatiable and while it’s the toughest job, the cliché is true: It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done.

I am still amazed that until I turned 39 I didn’t want kids. Hell, even during my pregnancy I spent many a therapy session worried I would love my cat more than my kid. Luckily Mother Nature made that impossible.

But after almost four years of writing here, I am feeling the need for a change.  Now Fia is 4 1/2 and Emmett is 2 1/2 and in terms of the early years, I feel like I am over the biggest hurdles: the dilemmas to circumcise, to take antidepressants, to have or not have a night nurse or a nanny, to sleep train (though I do now admit I love to sleep with Fia, especially when Phil is out of town), to do preschool, to  travel, to work.

As a writer, you want to stop before your well runs dry. My guest blogger, Joe Deprospero stepped in last year when I was nearly on empty. He wrote posts at least once a week that basically helped keep my blog afloat. He’s been a lot of fun to work with and I’m thankful for his energy and passion as a dad in the “mommy” space.  You can continue to find his work under the Parents Perspective banner.

For me, I think it’s time to focus on different writing: I want to finally tackle the memoir of my own childhood. I want to process my own mother’s demons that took her from the most extraordinary mom to the most tragic. I want to explore how I feel about her in relation to my own incredible journey of motherhood. It’s something that at times feels impossible to reconcile. Maybe I can’t. But I need to honor the memories I have and give it the time it deserves to write the book and see where I end up.

What’s been incredible since I began my journey into this unchartered “Mom” territory is that I’ve been able to chronicle so much of it here on my blog. I’ve been able to give a voice to my demons, my dilemmas, and the many revelations that have hit me in the stomach and knocked me to my knees. I’ve also been able to forgive myself for some of my more stupid decisions, simply because you have let me know I’m not alone in my mom-mush brain (I think the worst lapse in judgment was when I bought the $400 of meat from a door-to-door salesman. You all helped me through that since Phil was barely speaking to me).

I have also had to stomach the storm some of my more controversial posts have created. At times my opinions have changed due to what you, my readers, have pointed out. Other times it’s made me angrier for feeling judged and misunderstood. But there’s no denying it helped me realize that when you enter the realm of “mommy blogger” your skin better be thick.

I’ve also realized how amazing this new world is–we all have a voice and have the right to express it. Whether or not I agree with the opinions, it’s clear we are all passionate about our children and the way we are raising them. And that passion comes from a place of deep love and caring.

So thank you readers for pushing me to think beyond my comfort zone, for inspiring me to keep writing, for laughing with me at some of my more ridiculous posts and for being passionate parents who are inevitably raising passionate kids.

You can email me through my website at www.jillcordes.com or on my Facebook page. Follow me on twitter @fearlessmama.

 

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The Five Things Having Siblings Teaches Us

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

We don’t know what we don’t know. It sounds like a nonsense expression, but it actually does mean something. Sometimes in life, despite our best efforts, we have to accept that there are things we simply do not know, and therefore, cannot make decisions based on information we don’t have. But this doesn’t only apply to us, of course. There are times when other people behave a certain way because they don’t have the knowledge or experience that you do. It’s incredibly frustrating, but also inevitable. And quite often, this clash will occur when two people have different upbringings. I can think of no other upbringing difference more significant than having siblings vs. being an only child.

My parents did a great job raising my sister and I. But one thing I always felt my father understood more thoroughly was the brother-sister dynamic. Mom was an only child, and there were times when battles between me and my sister baffled her. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized—she’s viewing her parenthood through the lens of an only child, not through the lens of a parent who’s been there, done that with every imaginable sibling scuffle.

With that in mind, here are some things that people with siblings can understand with deeper meaning than those without…

  • You are not the center of the universe

There’s a natural tendency for only children to grow up with a sense of being infallible. They never had to share a bedroom, yield to their brother’s movie preference, etc. But once you have a sibling, you learn very quickly that the world does not revolve around you and your desires. It teaches a crucial lesson in that regard and prepares them for a life where, unless you’re Kim Kardashian, the world clearly will not revolve around you.

  • Sharing is not only virtuous, it’s mandatory

My older son is five, and he’s had a brother for three years. Even as recent as last night, their ability to share was tested. Each of them had a toy that belonged to the other. There was some whining at first, but eventually, they both realized that if they expected to keep the other one’s toy, they had to share their own. It’s a give and a take. While not always pretty, my kids understand that sharing their toys with others is simply something that has to happen. That knowledge should serve them well as adults.

  • Sometimes in life, people will try to drown you under an alligator raft

When I was about eight, my older sister, Nicole, pushed me underwater in our above-ground pool and held me under using an inflatable alligator raft. We were frequently at odds, especially when either of us had the ability to splash water in the other’s face. So, battles were the norm. Now, I don’t think she was actually trying to kill me (I mean, I’m pretty sure), but at the same time, I literally felt like I was fighting for my life. Metaphorically speaking, this has happened plenty of times as an adult. I tell myself that the raft helped me prepare.

  • There’s something special about a shared history

Don’t you absolutely love sitting around a table with old friends, reminiscing about old times with monstrous grins on your faces? Well, a sibling is the oldest friend you have. And you’ve been through everything together. Baths, bedtimes, graduations, you name it. And there’s no one else on this earth that understands and appreciates your history as deeply as they do. Because, quite simply, it’s their history too.

  • You don’t have to fight alone

Although disconcerting to see your children rip each other’s heads off on a daily basis, you can rest assured that they’ll be on the same side of the battlefield as adults. You may be as different as two people can be, but the ties that bind you override anything that separates you. I realize this isn’t the case 100% of the time, but more often than not, your siblings will be on your side during the most harrowing of life’s struggles.

* Honorable Mention: Eat what you want before someone else does

That’ll do it for me this week. In closing, I’d like to send the sincerest gratitude to Jill Cordes. Jill will be ending this blog at the end of the month. Last July, I was given the tremendous opportunity (by her) to guest blog for Parents, having my work visible to thousands of readers. And while the plan is for my future posts to appear under the “Parent’s Perspective” banner, I will greatly miss working alongside Jill and want to recognize the hospitality and support that she most certainly didn’t have to give me, but did. Jill’s one of the good ones and opened doors for me that were previously closed. Cheers, partner. Looking forward to reading your farewell piece.

Feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment below or tweeting me.

What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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The Pacifier Is Creating A Terror

Any parent who has an addict for a child knows the pacifier is like crack. With Fia the crack was also my crutch. It could silence her in crucial moments–like on a 5-hour airplane where no one wants to sit next to a wailing baby. Or occasionally at a restaurant if she was cranky. We didn’t make her get rid of it until she was 3. But she was a rule-follower and knew the only time she could use it was naptime or bedtime, unless I specified otherwise.

Until recently Emmett followed the same protocol. But I could tell he was more attached, or maybe just not as much of a rule follower as Fia. He started to periodically sneak into his room and grab it from the crib and go racing down the hall, looking behind him to see how fast we were on his heels. He laughed and treated it like a game. But the minute we would take it away, he would start to wail. Then hit and throw things.

Then he got a bad cold and I basically let him have it all the time, thinking it was soothing him. Little did I know it was turning him into a beast. When he got better and we went back to the old routine, he would constantly ask for it or try to sneak into his room to get it. When we wouldn’t give in, he began to throw anything he could get his hands on–trains, his sippy cup, a fork, you name it. His pacifier was creating a monster. Still, I was scared to give it up. Looking back, I was just as addicted as he was.

Last week we went on a family vacation to Colorado (crying picture while making a snow-ant). We took the paci on the plane and he was great. But once again, as soon as we landed, he began wailing for it. Every hike we went on or family adventure, he was begging for it, eventually crying and screaming. I know realize this is the point as a parent where you give in all the time because you think it will make your life saner–or, you decide to take charge and set boundaries. We literally watched our funny, sweet boy become a complete terror over the paci. We gave in, thinking it would make it easier. But instead, I think it just made him more headstrong. He became bratty–verging on a nightmare child who was constantly tantruming.

As soon as we landed back home, we put on the Sesame Street episode, Bye Bye Binky. We also cued up the song on YouTube and he watched it over and over. Then we explained that in 3 days we were sending the paci to TT (his grandma) so she could give it to another baby. That’s the same thing we did with Fia. This week, on day 3, we will have him help us wrap it up and take it to the post office to bid farewell. Leading up to day 3, we have only let him have it in his crib.

Just putting up these parameters has already made a huge difference in his personality.  Literally in 36 hours I already feel–and can see–we are getting our boy back. It’s also been incredibly eye opening to realize what a difference it makes when you take back control and set boundaries for your kids. He doesn’t want to be fussy, but a 2 1/2-year old has no impulse control or emotional range to understand how to regulate his moods. The only person who can really regulate them is you: the parent. Basically everything I’ve read about this in regard to 2-year behavior is true: they want, and more importantly, NEED boundaries. Leaving them unregulated or with false threats not only makes your life incredibly difficult and frustrating, but theirs too.

Tomorrow we will happily say bye bye binky and at least until the next curve ball is thrown, have our good boy back.

 

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“Renewing” My Parenting Vows for Father’s Day

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

 

When I was a kid, my aunt and uncle re-married. I was about 11, and the event mystified me. Did they forget they were already married, I wondered to myself. During the very brief ceremony, my uncle’s voice noticeably cracked, his face quivering. He started to lose it as the words, “all the days of my life” escaped him. As a 34-year-old married man, I now understand the weight and importance of those words. You’re giving yourself, body and soul, to another human being. And it’s overwhelming…and even pretty scary.

I mean, it’s a monstrous commitment (to those who take the vows seriously). While I’m not a big fan of pomp and pageantry and “ceremonies,” I find it necessary at certain points in life to “make it official.” Getting married is most definitely one of those times. Another is having a child. But when you become pregnant or become a parent, no one makes you stand in front of everyone you know to state your intentions and pledge your devotion, do they? Not usually. Considering parenthood is irreversible in a way that marriage is not, I would think that officially committing to this new lifestyle would make a lot of sense. So with my first five years of parenting in the books, and with Father’s Day imminent, I wanted to take a stab at writing my very own “parenting vows” as a means of reminding myself of the unsaid (and unwritten) contract I signed in 2009, when my life was forever changed.

I vow, first and foremost, to act as a guardian for my children. This includes protection from: strangers, injury, bad influences, dangerous surroundings, and terrible, meritless television shows. However, I’m aware that, no matter how hard I try, at least one of my children will develop an affinity for atrociously embarrassing programming comparable to “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.” And yes, they’ll even get hurt. Many times. And when they do, I will be there to heal them, explain how to potentially avoid pain in the future, or both.

I understand and accept that my social life will never, ever be the same as it was before I had kids. Every double date, happy hour, or even phone call with a friend will be booked largely around the whereabouts of my offspring. But it will typically make the socialization I do have that much sweeter.

I must accept that my children will make decisions I do not agree with. When they do, I will need to decide whether to step in or stay out of it, and even consider the possibility that I, myself, could be wrong. This will only get harder as they get older.

No matter how utterly exhausted I am when I get home from work, I promise to do any and all of the following, should my children request it:

Impromptu pony rides around the living room on all fours

Talk into a toy phone like it’s real

Read anywhere between eight and fifteen books at bedtime (doing ALL the voices)

Allow my back to be used as a trampoline

Allow my groin to be used as a catcher’s mitt

Tolerate a bedtime process that takes upwards of 90 minutes and involves at least three wardrobe changes

Play hide and seek, despite the absurdity of my son telling me where he plans to hide

Ignore all personal needs, including hunger, thirst, body pain

*This list will triple with each subsequent child

Parenthood will be (and is) the most unnerving, frustrating, depressing, maddening, exhilarating and joyous experience available to us on this earth. I know that there will be days when I’m broken down and listless, where the demands of my family and career push me to the brink of sanity, where I’ll feel like running away. But it is my solemn vow and my unyielding commitment to be irreplaceably active in the lives of my children. I will never relent in my goal to give them the happiest childhood imaginable, and I will welcome the peace of their heads on my shoulder as well as the hell of their adolescent (or toddler) attitude problems.

This is my vow. A vow I never intend to break.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow dads out there making life that much better for your kids, especially to my own dad, who has not only been a terrific guardian, but who as an adult, I can call a friend.

Add a comment below to join the conversation or tweet me for more.

 

Episode 2 of my web series, Parental Guidance:

 

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Five Ways to Avoid Losing Yourself in Parenthood

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

I could easily fill one of those office flip charts with a laundry list of the challenges of becoming a parent. In fact, I’d likely take up both sides of the paper. Potty training, bedtime routines, schooling, discipline, the list goes on and on and on. It would be nearly impossible to pick one specific challenge that trumps the rest, because frankly, they all seem equally laborious. But for me, there is one hurdle to clear that supersedes them all.

The biggest challenge of being a parent, as I see it, is not forgetting who you were before you became one.

Put another way, this means don’t let the enormous lifestyle change of raising a child alter the very essence of who you are. Easier said than done, I know, but I do believe there are ways. And this is not to say we must remain mirror images of ourselves. Some element of change is inevitable. But for me, there is nothing sadder than seeing a person change who they are at their core because parenthood rendered them unrecognizable.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to stay true to yourself, despite the chaos that parenting brings upon you.

  • Never, ever give up on your goals and dreams

I long to one day become a successful author and screenwriter. Having children to raise has given me plenty of excuses to toss those dreams in the garbage. But, ultimately, I’m passionate about those dreams (otherwise, they wouldn’t be dreams). And I’m not completely happy if I’m not at least pursuing them. Therefore, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them moving forward. No matter how exhausted I am.

  • Drop the crazy, save the fun

It’s natural to tone down your social life (even dramatically) once you’re a parent. But what bugs me is when I see a complete transformation from party animal to complete social wallflower. While the responsibilities of parenthood often prohibit that fourth or fifth drink at the bar, it doesn’t mean you’ve become a nun, either. Watch a racy movie, play (consensual) strip poker, go to a punk rock show. You’re a parent, you’re not dead.

  • Remember your friends (and family)

Communication. Communication. Communication. It’s oh so essential to just about every facet of your life—and with a smart phone, it’s more convenient than ever. But particularly with maintaining friendships. While it’s certainly more challenging to find time to hang with your friends (especially when you both have kids), at the very least, call them once in a while, drop a text and say, “How the hell are ya?” You’d be surprised how quickly a friendship can disintegrate when those little things stop happening. If making to-do lists helps you, put “Call Amanda” on there. And, ya know, actually call her.

  • Keep a hobby, not a habit

Do you play piano, coach intramural soccer, write a fantasy baseball blog? Whatever it is, make time for it. You’ll find yourself with a whole boatload of regret if you don’t. More often than not, there are people in your life who will support you in making it happen.

  • Be selfish once in a while

Put another way, don’t forget about your own needs. It means putting on Nick Jr. so you can read the newspaper or scheduling that girls night or guys night you’ve been meaning to plan. Naturally, this is a game of balance with your significant other (assuming you have one), but if no attention is paid to the needs of the individuals raising those children, they are going to have very, very unhappy, resentful parents. That’s not the recipe for a happy household, as far as I’m concerned.

 

We all know someone who had kids and disappeared from our lives. We all know someone who became a parent and lost their passions. Don’t be that person. And if you feel like you’re starting to become that person, take a minute to write a to-do list specifically about enhancing your personal life. And set deadlines for each item. Ultimately, those things will be just as vital to your overall success in life as paying your bills and buying diapers.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment below or tweeting me.

And, feel free to check out the latest edition of my web series, Parental Guidance.

 

*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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