Adventures in Toddler Parenting

“Star Lord!” my son asked for the 15th time in about seven days. I suppose on one hand I could be stoked that my child is obsessed with a movie I actually enjoy rather than, say, Barney. But there are only so many times one can watch the same movie before wondering when sanity ends and insanity begins. I am guessing it is somewhere around the 100th viewing, which we passed a little over a week into his obsession with Groot and Star Lord.

When I was younger, my obsession was La Bamba, though I wasn’t two. For movie obsessions prior to La Bamba, you’ll have to consult with my mother. But, I have fond memories of watching that movie and singing along to “Oh Donna” many, many, many times.

Aside from his recent indoctrination into the nerdom, my son has also begun forming strong opinions. Such as:
“I like pizza, that yucky pizza,” referring to my Mexican Pizza.
“Gross. EWWW Mama!” in response to my drinking a LaCroix.
“Sit Mama! Eat Mama,” him every morning as he himself refuses to sit and eat.
“Mustard! Honey mustard! Yucky mustard,” in response to learning that all mustard is not in fact honey mustard. (I feel you on this one buddy)
“I pooped,” anytime he did not in fact poop.
“I’m wet,” anytime he pooped.
“I go home,” anytime we are out to eat and the food arrives.
“More fruit snacks!” after his fifth bag of fruit snacks (at what point does a child actually turn into a fruit snack?).
“I go to Target,” every time he isn’t quite ready for bed … this kid knows my weaknesses.
“Mama!” pointing to any Starbucks cup or logo he sees.

It’s been amazing and awe-inspiring to watch his personality grow over the past two years. He has a strong confidence that is bold and courageous. It’s almost as if he knows exactly who he is and what his purpose is and he’s just patiently waiting for the rest of us to figure it out.

We’re working on buddy, be patient with us.

Finding Confidence

Like many girls and women, I often struggle to find confidence and comfort in my own skin. There’s always something to hate – the back fat, that annoying under arm chicken wings, uneven eyebrows (long lost cousins, not sisters), a far too wide nose that contouring doesn’t even help, one too many chins, hair that’s too thin or flat – this list goes on and on and it changes daily.

But the one consistent thing I have found that brings me closer to finding that confidence? It’s not something I ever expected would work for me. It’s not makeup, though, I thoroughly love makeup, or a great hair day. It’s not fancy shoes or clothes, though I love those too.

It’s simple. Working out.

I think there are many reasons fitness has helped me consistently find confidence – I feel healthier, I have more energy and more endorphins and my clothes fit better. Those are all crucial bits, but the one thing I love that fitness brings me that little else can? I have 30-45 minutes of daily, guilt-free alone time that is actually good for me and those around me. My morning workouts set the tone for my entire day and when I miss it I feel it. My energy is lower, I am crankier and I tend to gravitate more towards the foods that drag me down even more.

I used to workout to get “skinny” thinking that is what would be the magic trick to making me feel comfortable in my own skin and actually like myself. Now, I workout to feel better and be stronger. You know what’s funny? Those are far better motivators than trying to be skinny or to fit  into someone else’s standard of beauty. I won’t lose 20 pounds overnight, but I can improve my mood and attitude with one 30 minute workout – those immediate results are fantastic motivators.

Every single day there are pressures to be more and do more. To try harder to fit into a mold that may or may not fit into who I am or who I want to be. The days I don’t feel confident, those little things bother me more than they should and I tend to give into the frustrations even more. Those days also typically line up with the days I miss my morning workout and thankfully, working in a downtown setting means I can spend my lunch hour taking a brisk walk through the city. And, nor matter how I felt before or during that walk, I always feel better when I get back.

As a working mom, it is easy to feel guilty for taking time for yourself. But, don’t. Our families need us healthy and happy.

A Livable Wage

Every once in a while I see a quote from a politician that is just so awful I cannot even fathom for a second that it is true (i.e. “grab ’em by the pussy”). That was my exact reaction when I saw a meme with this quote pop up in my news feed over and over again:

“This is an example of the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative. I do not support a livable wage.” -Karen Handel, GOP Candidate GA6

So, I Googled and there it was. On video. I nodded in agreement as I listened to Jon Ossoff’s answer, a carefully crafted and perfectly sensible answer (he supports a living wage, but with increases paced to allow small business time to adapt and change without hurting their business) that fits the progressive narrative that I believe in as a marketer working for one of those businesses that would be gutted with an overnight increase to $15 per hour.

Then Karen Handel opened her mouth and uttered those now infamous words. At least she was honest? At least she nailed the very different between the right and the left on the head. The difference they adamantly deny when they insist that they are the party of the working class (laughable at best). But, there it was plain as day. The GOP does not support a living/livable wage. Why? Because they place the needs of businesses and corporations above the needs of the people that vote them into office. They place money before people and party before country.

The answer Ossoff gave provides a perfect balance of being pro business and pro people – yes, a living wage is needed and yes a plan that doesn’t hurt small business is needed as well. There is a way to balance both of these needs and he nailed it.

For far too long, we on the left have allowed the loud mouths on the right to dictate the narrative on who we as Democrats are and what we stand for. The GOP has taking our platform and twisted it to fit the fear mongering narrative that works so very well for them. They’ve found a way to capitalize on the fears and gullibility of voters and they use it each and every election cycle and it works just as beautifully as they had hoped.

We support a woman’s right to choose and we are baby killers. We support access to affordable healthcare and we are communists and socialists (which, they really should look up the definitions of both those words before they use them). We support sensible gun laws and suddenly we want to raid your homes and rip away your guns. We support a living wage and are anti-business.

None of these are true. Not one. And, we have to take back this narrative. Karen Handel has given us the perfect opportunity to do this. Her very words are the epitome of everything wrong with the GOP trying to take on the status of a party for American workers. Every single policy the GOP supports for businesses does not benefit small business, they are designed to continue lining the pockets of the largest corporations – diminishing Dodd-Frank helps big banks, but does nothing for small banks and credit unions. Rolling back anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws hurts small business trying to compete against the giants. And, not a single one of these help support American workers.

We saw how little these policies helped the American working and middle class in the 1980s under trickle down and Reaganomics. Not. One. Bit. The rich got richer. The poor got poorer. The middle class declined and is facing outright extinction.

Supporting a living wage is pro-business and it is pro-worker. Period.

To Be That Woman

Growing up, my mom was my idol. She’s strong, confident and pretty much everything I wanted to be. She sang at the top of her lungs when everyone was listening. She danced like no one was watching when literally everybody was watching – much to my red-cheeked embarrassment. She is unashamed in her love and affections. She always gives and rarely takes (unless we force her to).

My mother is the embodiment of the woman I hope to one day be. She is the mother I strive to be.

As a single, working mom, she never missed the important moments. She never let the sacrifices she made be known … and she made many. Most of which I didn’t see until I was grown and it was too late to thank her. When our father died, her role as a single mother amplified, though she really played the role of dual parent long before his death. She filled her role and the hole left by my father’s death and she made sure we felt enough love to make up for what we might have missed.

She raised me to be a strong, independent, opinionated and vocal woman – and she dealt with the burden of a strong, independent, opinionated and vocal daughter with more grace than even I could muster.

As the years have passed and the lines on her face have deepened, the realities of time and mortality are becoming more apparent. Some days, I find myself wishing time would slow down or begging to go back just a few years to make a few more memories, or at least to soak up the ones already made.

And, as my roles as an adult, wife and working mother have become all consuming, my calls to her have lessened. Our conversations are shorter and further apart. Rather than picking up the phone to share the updates of my life, I let Facebook do that these days.

I watch her on her hands and knees playing with my son, fully in the moment and unaware of her surroundings and I find myself longing to be that woman – strong, loving, confident, present, giving, passionate, caring, intelligent.

George W. Bush: Decision Points

Seventeen years ago I voted in my first presidential election, I was nineteen. For as long as I could remember politics were a passion of mine and my opinions and ideals always aligned with the Left. So, when I watched the election of 2000 unfold, my heart was crushed. Then, in 2004, it was crushed again.

But, 2016 provided a completely new perspective. 2000 and 2004 were nothing compared to the devastation and disappointment I experienced in 2016. It was with this new perspective that I was inspired to listen to George W. Bush’s post-Presidency book, Decision Points. And, let me tell you what a difference eight years makes.

The premise of Decision Points is essentially a full dissection of the critical decisions Bush made during his eights years in office. Everything from stem cell research to his HIVA/AIDS work in Africa to Iraq and 9/11. While, I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions made during his presidency, particularly on Iraq, I now have a better understanding of how he came to the conclusions he did. This is especially true when it comes to Iraq, which accounts for almost half of the book. As he walks through the intelligence he received and the rationale behind the decision to invade Iraq I was able to walk away with a clearer picture of the how and why. I still disagree with the decision he and his administration made, but I understand it.

What struck me the most was his passion and compassion. His storytelling is clear and concise and made his deep love of American and its people apparent. More than eight years have passed since his presidency came to an end and in that time, history, and I, look upon his time with more appreciation than contempt.

Sorry Ivanka

Ivanka Trump’s new book attempts to detail the life and struggle of working moms and, not surprisingly, she completely misses the mark.

She laments the importance of sharing anecdotes about being covered in pureed avocado in the morning or sharing photos of her with a messy pony tail playing in the dirt with her kids. For many working moms, these “anecdotes” are luxuries they can’t afford – food for their children or time to play in garden with their children.

But, the one thing she misses the most? The real struggles of working moms.

“During extremely high-capacity times, like during the campaign, I went into survival mode: I worked and I was with my family; I didn’t do much else. Honestly, I wasn’t treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care. I wish I could have awoken early to meditate for twenty minutes …”

Sorry, Ivanka, this is not survival mode. Not even close.

For a working mom, “survival mode” is not skipping a massage or meditation.

Survival Mode is …

Choosing between putting food on the table and being able to afford life saving medicine.

Going back to work at 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. weeks postpartum because you cannot afford leave.

Living every day terrified of a call from daycare that your child is sick because you may lose your job if you miss one more day.

Getting to the end of the month and not making ends meet.

Skipping meals so your child can get the uniform, shoes, etc. they need (thank you Stephanie).

Crying yourself to sleep every night because you live in fear that you are not enough for your child.

Shielding hate, judgment and criticism from those on the outside looking in.

Watching your child cry in pain because the life saving medicine is wrecking their body. Or, watching this knowing your worry is split between your child’s pain and the bills you know are coming.

So, sorry, Ivanka Trump, you may be a working mom, but you don’t know the first thing about being a working mom in survival mode.

In the Blink of an Eye

My son is going through his 18-24 month sleep regression, which means we’ve been doing a lot of rocking before bed lately. The boy who used to let us know it was bedtime and would climb into bed, lay his head down and close his eyes without a fight now refuses to do anything of the sort.

Last night as I rocked him, I rubbed my cheek over the top of his head like I did so many times during the first year or so of his life. When he was born he had the softest peach fuzz atop his (cone) head. I can still remember the softness and comfort it brought as I’d gently move my hand or cheek across it. I spent many a nights with my face gently resting against that tiny, fuzzy head. It became a part of our routine – nurse, rock, head rub. I think it soothed me as much as it did him.

I don’t remember the last time I did this. Instead, those moments are combined into a single memory. A memory that comes complete with the familiar sensation of his tiny baby hair against my skin and his tiny body wrapped up completely in my arms. His entire world existed inside our arms, now he can run and explore a world he couldn’t have dreamt of before.

His hair has grown out and isn’t so baby soft anymore. It’s usually an unruly mess that neither my husband nor I can tame. We are well past due on his second haircut. But last night as I rocked him into his new dream world, I laid my cheek on top of his head and smiled as the long hairs tickled my skin.

We have a lot of firsts to look forward to and to look back on. But, what I’ve taken for granted are all the lasts we have ahead of us as well. There will come a day when he won’t clamor to sit on Mama’s lap or have Dada tickle his toes. He won’t want us to be in the room with him and he won’t cry when we leave. He’ll sulk in the back seat instead of giggle and talk as we drive home from school. He won’t wake up babbling and asking for Mama, he’ll shove us off and roll over to fall back asleep. He won’t reach for us and beg us to lift up or hold him. His “peas” and “tank ous
” will become fully enunciated “pleases” and “thank yous,” if we are lucky enough to get them. Mama reading Mama Llama to him before bed won’t be the highlight of his day and bath time with Dada will become fights over the need to shower and use deodorant. One day, his world won’t revolve around Mama and Dada. I’ve known these moments were coming, but I wasn’t prepared for the weight of the realization.

Those hairs brushing my cheek reminded me that these moments are fleeting and they will be long gone in the blink of an eye.

Malala Yousafzai: I am Malala

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban is a powerful story of a young girl fighting for the things she believes in: peace and education for all children. Malala’s story delivered the kind of inspirational tale that I was expecting – a strong, brave, intelligent and outspoken young woman who fought for her education. What I didn’t expect? The detailed insight into how the Taliban came to power in her valley in Pakistan.

What also came as a surprise? The parallels I was able to draw between the current regime in America and the way in which the Taliban was able to draw in supporters.

As I listened to this young girl detail the history of the Taliban in Pakistan and the way they moved into her home in the Swat Valley, my jaw dropped. From the man who came to power by promising to release his taxes and drain the corruption from the government to the Taliban leader who took to the radio airwaves to spread fake news and false narratives while calling out those he felt didn’t follow the Islam that he deemed to be correct. Every step they took rung true as I thought about Donald Trump, the alt-right and those that follow them religiously. It was eerie how similar these tactics are.

What struck me the most as I listened to Malala’s life story was how important it was – not just her plea for education and rights for girls – but to story of how the Taliban and other extremists have perverted the Islamic of religion. Malala and her family are passionate about their faith and they are adamantly opposed to the message of the Taliban. She offers a perspective that all Americans and Westerners need to hear. It is something I’ve said for years, but that her book reinforced, extremists do not represent the Muslim community and those in the community are as appalled by their actions as we are.

Malala’s story was eye opening and provided me with a perspective that one could only get from someone who lived through it.

Dada Home?

Thanks to my job, I travel once every month or two. Most of the time, the trips are short, but sometimes I am gone for a few days. Those trips are hard – being away from my son and husband isn’t easy. Plus, I don’t always have time to call or video chat.

Thankfully, I have a partner that is just that – a true partner. He doesn’t consider caring for our son “women’s work” and is an active and engaged parent. This is something I try very hard to not take for granted. Our family only works because he works. There are times, many times, where I feel like he carries far more of the home responsibilities than I do. Likely because I will let the dishes build to mountain climbing levels before I touch them and he refuses to let them pile up.

This week my husband had to travel to a conference and was gone four nights. For most moms this wouldn’t be a big deal. But for me, it was. I’ve never had to do the morning and night routine solo. My husband typically does the morning and breakfast routine with our son while I get ready. At bedtime, I read him a book and give him kisses while my husband tucks him in. If I am in the room, he will fight sleep and not stay in bed.

When I travel, I always ask my husband if our son asks for me. Usually, the answer is “nope.” I hate this answer. I know it is completely selfish, but I want my son to miss me when I am gone. I want him to want his mama. At first this question and answer would leave me in tears, but then I found comfort in knowing that my husband and my son have an amazing bond … although, it still hurts sometimes.

The first night my husband was gone, he asked about Dada as soon as we got home. He normally does this because he knows Dada always gets home before we do. So, I wasn’t surprised there. At bedtime, he fought sleep a little and even got back out of bed after I left the room. But, a few verses of Hakuna Matata (thank you Lion Guard for the refresher) and a few back rubs later, he fell asleep like a champ.

Until three in the morning when I was awoken by one of his toys singing, “I’m a silly little penguin. Waddling here. Waddling there.” Ugh. I knew that toy was on the opposite end of the room and didn’t just randomly turn on. I threw myself out of bed and walk to his room.

“Hi Mama!” He shouted and waved as I walk in. This energy did not reflect that of a child who just happened out of bed. He was wide awake. I was not.

After a failed attempt to get him back into bed, I brought him into our room. As we lay in the dark, he started talking.

“Dada home? Dada home?” he repeated over and over. I tell him Dada will be home later. He keeps asking. My eyes swelled with tears as I got him back up and tried to rock him to sleep. “Dada home? Dada home?”

He kept asking. His voice small and quiet.

“Just Mama, buddy,” I whispered back to him. “Dada will be home in a few days.”

We played this game for another hour before I gave up and got the day started.

Just Mama. God it killed me to hear him asking for Dada when I knew he rarely asked for me. At three in the morning your brain likes to travel down dark paths that are neither productive or vetted in reality. I wondered if I’d failed him as a mother. I thought all my work travel had made him not miss me when I was gone – oh, Mama? She’s always gone. I again wondered if I was really good enough for him or even just enough. I sobbed as I tried to rub his back to get him to fall asleep again. I hated myself.

But, as the sun came up, my thoughts shifted. Of course he wanted to know where Dada was and why he wasn’t home. He knows when Mama leaves she always comes back. He knows the routine of my travel. For his dada, this was new territory. His routine was thrown off. Dada didn’t read him a story and tuck him in. Dada wasn’t there for breakfast. For over a year and a half, Dada has been there almost every single night at bedtime and then the next morning at breakfast.

This is something that makes me happy and makes me love my husband more every single day. It is also something I far too often just take for granted and do not appreciate as I should.

As soon as we had a video chat with Dada, all was right with his world. He knew Dada, like Mama, was there even when he was not home. The smile on his face when he heard Dada’s voice was worth every insecurity I’d felt the night before.

I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth repeating, Mom Guilt is hard. It infiltrates our brains and makes us think crazy thoughts. It makes the smallest slight feel like world war.

He Runs and Hides

My son has been visiting the Two Year Old room at school lately. Every afternoon his class spends the last part of the day in this new magical room full of new toys and big kids. My son loves it in there. In fact, he loves it so much that he runs and hides from me when I pick him up.

Yup.

My child runs and hides from me when I come to pick him up.

The same child that would act as though the world were ending if Mom even considered walking into another room. The child who used to run to me when I picked him up – he’d practically tackle me and beg me to hold him. The child who used to refuse everyone but me.

He runs and hides from me.

Sure I know he loves the new room – so many new toys to play with, new faces to interact with, but it stings. It stings a lot.

Every single day I sit in my office and I wonder if the work I am doing is truly worth missing out on my son’s day. Every minute I sit in my car begging traffic to move I wish I were at daycare already. Every waking minute, and sometimes sleeping ones, I wonder if I can be a good mom while also having a career.

So, seeing my son look up at me, make eye contact and run the other direction so he can play with one more toy before coming home absolutely guts me. If I listened to all the delightful people on Twitter who tell me that women like me are the reason this generation is so screwed up or listen to the woman who not so subtly asks me how I could let another person raise my son, this would hurt even more.

But, I do listen to them. Their words hurt even though I know my son is thriving. He’s smart. He’s happy. He adores his father and me (sometimes, I think he might favor Dada over Mama), and I am sure that given the choice, he’d much rather spend his days and nights with us than at school. It does make me happy that he loves his school, but that happiness is overshadowed by my jealousy. I want him to be that excited to see me, not his toys or classmates. He loves coming “ome” once we are in the car. On the short ride home, we talk about the snacks we’ll make, the pets he’ll torment, the books we’ll read and the cuddles we’ll have.

I wish I could erase the doubt filled thoughts and anxiety that plague working mothers. I wish society could accept that women can lead in the home and out of it and stop making us feel guilty for choosing both careers and motherhood.

Most of all, I wish my son wouldn’t run and hide at the end of the day.