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Friday, September 2nd, 2011
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was overwhelmed and terrified. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Just how painful would labor be? Once the baby was here, how would I figure out what to do with it? When I took it with me to buy groceries, for example, where, exactly, would I store it? In the card she gave me at me baby shower, my best friend Konnie wrote, I think I’m more excited about this baby than you are. I think she was right.
During my final of stretch pregnancy, I ran into an acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. He has two kids—twins—who at the time were about five. He immediately dove into a story about how he’ll never forget those first months, how absolutely exhausted he was. He and his wife worked opposite shifts. She’d come home from work to find him laying on the floor, out of his mind with sleeplessness, both babies crying. Then he’d force himself upright and go to work in a zombie state. Reverse roles, repeat story, day after day after day.
“That sounds awful,” I said, horrified.
“Oh, no,” he quickly responded, snapping out of his nostalgic haze once he realized he’d inadvertently appalled me. “It was great. I really miss those days.”
Miss? What in the world was he possibly talking about, miss?
Then I had my baby, and I got it. Those first few sleepless months really are pretty terrible, full of tears and doubt and body fluids, and at the same time, somehow, they’re absolutely amazing. I distinctly remember sitting in my living room, unshowered and half-asleep, with rock-hard breasts leaking milk and a monstrous maxi pad dealing with the ridiculous mess still going on down there, staring at my new baby boy thinking, I can’t believe he’s mine, forever and ever. I felt like the luckiest person alive. Possibly the grossest as well, but I kind of didn’t care.
Lately, people have been asking me if I’m scared to have a newborn again. I’m not. This time, I have a good idea of what I’m heading into. I now know that the pain of labor is indescribably beyond beyond, and that you can plop a newborn, carseat and all, directly into the back of your shopping cart. And I know that those first few months will alternate between terrible and beautiful, and that when I’m smack-dab in the middle of them, I probably won’t enjoy them much at all.
But I also know that they will, eventually, be over, no matter how never-ending they feel. And when enough time has passed, I’ll even miss them. In the blink of an eye, I’ll be the veteran parent with a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, nostalgic about the newborn days in my rearview mirror. I’ll see the deer-in-the-headlights look in a soon-to-be mama’s eye and scare the crap out of her by reminiscing fondly about the good ol’ bad days, unable to explain how parenthood can be so incredibly difficult and yet so absolutely worth it. She’ll get it, eventually. It’s one of those things where you kind of have to be there.
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Friday, August 26th, 2011
Roy wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye when 9/11 hit. Yet when the folks here at Parents.com asked if I might have any kid-related thoughts or memories to share for the upcoming 10-year anniversary of that terrible day, one immediately sprang to mind.
My dear friend Jodi was among the first in my close-knit group of high school friends to have kids. We all fawned over little Kai, the Buddha-bellied boy with the longest eyelashes and most beautiful mop of curly black hair ever. Kai was four years old on September 11th, 2001.
We live in the Midwest, far from the twin towers that once anchored lower Manhattan. But like the rest of the country—the world?—we were glued to the TV that day in complete shock and awe. Seeing the tragedy unfold was all at once completely and literally unbelievable, yet so sickeningly real. You didn’t want to watch, as if turning off the TV might make it all go away, but you had to bear witness to this attack that was truly meant to affect every single one of us, from those at its horrific epicenter to those of us in the Midwest and beyond.
Kai knew something was up. His dad came home from work early, and the neighbors gathered on the front porch into the evening, instinctively circling the wagons. And then there were those two skyscrapers, the ones that crumbled to the ground seemingly every time he took a play-break to grab a snack or see what the adults were up to. Kai’s innocent question: “Mommy, why do those buildings keep falling down?”
I’ve always admired Jodi’s parenting style, hoping that if I ever had kids, I’d operate similarly. She’s age-appropriate honest with them and trusts them in a way that seems to foster maturity. There was no way she or any parent could have been prepared to explain something like this. Instinctively, she led with the short truth in its most basic form. “Those are the same two buildings, Kai. They only fell down one time. They just keep showing it.”
Kai seemed satisfied, and not at all scared. After all, he was safe at home with mom and dad and half the neighborhood. Jodi followed his lead and left it at that, figuring he’d probably taken in enough through osmosis. No need to expand the image inside his four-year-old head. Maybe for Kai, this day could be out-of-the-ordinary for kid reasons—the unexpected company, extra dad-time—and nothing else.
Ten years later, Kai’s a handsome basketball star a foot taller than me. I recently asked him what he remembered of that day. “Nothing,” he said. Not the perpetually falling buildings. Not even the impromptu neighborhood gathering. Nothing.
Maybe he was too young to remember. Maybe Jodi’s instincts were right. As a relatively new parent, all I know for certain is that heartbreaking urge to keep the world beautiful and pure for your kid. It’s not the complete, inevitable truth—9/11 isn’t the only proof of that. But it’s a good short version; one that I, too, hope to uphold, honestly, for as long as circumstances allow.
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Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Perhaps you recall my recent story about calling the police on a couple who left their young children at our local park so they could go buy drugs? Yeah, that wasn’t fun.
Then on Monday, I had a terrible run-in with one of our next-door neighbors; a run-in that I do not wish to re-live in full here. Suffice it to say that after it became apparent that there was just one item on her afternoon to-do list—screaming at me like a nut job from my own front stoop—I resorted to firmly ordering her to, “Get the hell off my property.” As if I were a curmudgeonly 80-year-old recluse. I did not shake my fist in the air while yelling, if only out of genuine fear that she would slug me.
National Night Out arrived, as if on cue, to remind me of all that is good in our neighborhood. Our first gathering was hosted by Roy’s neighborhood grandma, Jackie, and her husband John. We arrived as soon as the fire truck did. Roy’s reaction to the presence of a fire truck is what I imagine mine would be to the presence of, say, James Franco or Brad Pitt: Mute paralysis and pants wetting. (Though I may be projecting on poor Roy with that last one.)
After the firemen hooked up the hose and let the kids run through the spray, Roy loosened up a bit. Even “drove” the truck, big boy. Jackie and John made hot dogs, and everyone brought a dish to pass, so we hung out and ate (or, rather, tag-teamed eating and chasing Roy through the garden), chatting with the kind and relatively sane folk there. We end up meeting a few new people every year.
We left in time to head to another party up the block at John and Craig’s place. It was in their back yard, with a whole different group of neighbors. More chatting, more meeting, and then Roy tackled his first ice cream cone. Instinct led him to chomp away at the cone, not realizing that it’s actually a container for the ice cream, but what are summers for if not sticky vanilla-flavored limbs?
The whole evening was lovely. No calls to the police. No screaming freak-shows. Just a bunch of folks who live near one another sharing a nice summer night in the ‘hood.
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Friday, July 22nd, 2011
Roy’s a year and a half old now, and we still haven’t given him a haircut. The boy’s hair is long. Long enough to be gathered into a wee pony tail. Long enough that the bangs have to be swept the the side in order for him to properly see. Long enough that sometimes, people ask: Boy or girl?
This doesn’t bother me. I love his long, wispy, blonde hair. Awhile back, I mentioned the possibility of cutting it to my daycare provider, who has six children of her own—five of them boys. “Once you do, they don’t look like babies anymore,” she warned me. “They look like little boys.”
To be honest, this growing up thing is moving a little too quickly for me. Seems like just yesterday he was a tiny, wrinkly blob of a baby, and now, here he is, capable of running, berry-picking, feeding himself with a fork and saying words like “bellybutton.” I’ll hold on to what baby he has left in him as long as I can, thank you very much.
My husband is more adamant than I am about keeping the long locks. Every once in a while, like when it’s really hot out and Roy wakes up from his nap with hair stuck to his sweaty little baby neck, I’ll say, “Maybe it’s time for that haircut.”
Clint’s response? “Not yet.”
Me: “Just a little trim. It just looks so hot.”
Of course I relent. Because I understand. Roy will have long, blonde hair until we’re all ready to let go of it.
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Thursday, July 14th, 2011
Last week, The Wall Street Journal‘s blog The Juggle challenged the idea that children of divorce tend to go on to their own unhappy marriage, in a post titled “Happier Marriages for Kids of Divorce?”
First of all, the answer to that question is, in general, no. Studies have shown time and time again that children of divorce are more likely to get divorced themselves. Really, the blog is based on Pew Center stats on stepfamilies, which seem to reveal that kids of divorce may have a better shot at a happy marriage if involved in a stepfamily post-divorce. Which is awesome.
Still, I think the blog title struck me because my parents divorced when I was about 13, and I have a happy marriage. I’ve read plenty of reports insisting that I’ve accomplished this against all odds. Regardless, here I am. Here we are. Past the newlywed stage, in the throes of parenthood, and so far, so good. The phrase in the post that most spoke to me: “… marital breakups have mixed long-term effects, fostering growth in some children and the resolve to build happier marriages of their own.”
I’m living proof of that. Granted, it took me well into my ’30s to find the right guy. And I did have some close calls—”learning experiences”—that would have most certainly cheated the both of us out of a happy future with a better match. In the end, I lucked into something that felt right—like a good, solid foundation on which to build a forever.
Of course, no one goes into a marriage planning on divorce. We’re all taking a leap of faith when we jump into any partnership, and sometimes, things just don’t work out. As a child, I learned this. As an adult, I totally understand it. But I do like the idea that even when the odds are stacked against you, you’re far from doomed.
<Insert your situation here>
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