The Threenager

My son turned 3 in June. Everyone warned me about this age. Two isn’t the terrible year, they told me, the year of the threenager is. I remember thinking, yeah, two hasn’t really been that bad. I braced myself for three. At least I thought I did.

Nothing could  have prepared me for three. Especially the three that comes after your sweet, gentle soul of an only child becomes a big brother in the months leading up to the big third birthday.

The tantrums. The mood swings. The willful disobedience. The potty training regression. The sleep regression. The behavior regression. The yelling, the hitting, the arguing … I was not prepared for any of it.

Lord, help us all.

I am going to be brutally honest here (judge me if you must), no age or moment has challenged me as a parent more than three. I doubt my decisions daily – both my parenting decisions and my decision to become a parent. This boy tests me in ways I’d never even imagined were possible and I fully understand the words my mother used to say to me when I was a teenager – “I love you always, but I don’t like you right now.”

Typing that I realize just how big of an ungrateful asshole I sound like. But until you’ve been kicked, slapped, screamed at and peed on by your adoring child all within the span of a minute, you have no idea how trying these moments are.

Every once in a while I will start to wonder if maybe my child is worse than the other threenagers I know. Could there be a bigger issue? Then, as if the Facebook Mom Group Gods are listening, a fellow threenager mom posts a story that mirrors the one I’d just barely survived.

Nope, he’s a normal threenager. Thank you Jesus. I think.

But, three isn’t all bad. We have so many amazing moments and are making lifelong memories – this kid is a steel trap and remembers everything. EVERYTHING.

He adores his baby sister and loves to help with her. He can make her smile and laugh in a way neither her father nor I have mastered yet.

He shows compassion for his friends, sister and family. I can already tell he is going to be empathetic and caring towards others.

He gives the best hugs and is always up to a bedtime snuggle. His favorite thing is to give “Avengers” hugs … we have a Hulk big, a Black Widow hug, a Spider-Man hug … you get the idea.

 My son has become his own person – he has ideas and an amazing imagination. He makes up stories and loves telling them to us. My favorite? The one he insisted his teacher hit him and his friend on the head with a broom and ended up in timeout. It took some work, but we finally got him to tell us he’d made up the story. We’re working on learning the difference between the truth and a lie and when and how to use our imagination to make up stories.

We can hold real conversations and he is capable of telling me what he needs. He’s observant to the world around him and can, for the most part, hold his own.

Some days it’s hard to remember that he’s still a toddler. He uses complete sentences and has moments of pure genius as he works through his own logical approach to life. At times, he’s so mature that I forget how quickly he can slip back into threenager mode. I have to constantly remind myself that he is still just three years old and he has all these big emotions that he’s just now learning to cope with and process.

And, I am still learning how to parent a threenager. I’m sure I’ll figure it out sometime around his fourth birthday.

My Kid Won’t do THAT

Y’all remember life before kids? Back when you were on the outside looking in and full of wild ideas and judgement … you know, all those “when I have kids …” moments? Don’t look at me like that, we all thought it. We’ve all said it.

So, to make us all feel better and laugh at ourselves (or, maybe, just at me), I wanted to make a comprehensive list of all the things my kid won’t do that he does, in fact, do.

  • Eat McDonald’s. Weekly. Sometimes twice.
  • Know there are toys in the Happy Meal & he certainly won’t play with them before he eats.
  • Watch TV.
  • Have a tablet.
  • Throw a tantrum.
  • Throw a tantrum in the middle of Target.
  • Scream in a restaurant.
  • Run away from me in a restaurant.
  • Wake up at 4am. Every. Single. Day. Of. His. Short. Life.
  • Have a pacifier.
  • Suck her fingers/thumb.
  • Have play weapons.
  • Take over the house with toys.
  • Eat different dinners/meals than the rest of us. I will NOT cook two dinners.
  • Eat candy. Definitely not as an entire meal.
  • Be bribed. I would NEVER bribe my child with any of the above tactics. Nope. I will never negotiate with candy, toys or screen time.
  • Eat in the car.
  • Tell strangers about his penis.
  • Lick the handicap railing in the restroom at Costco. )Wait, that’s super specific. Who’s kid did that? That’s horrible. Yeah, that was my kid and I had no idea I was supposed to add that to the My Kid Won’t do That List.

What are some of the things you swore your kid wouldn’t do, but totally does?

Setting the Tone

I try to make my bed every morning. I don’t always succeed, but I try. I do this for two reasons … first, because my son absolutely loves messing up the pillows and it’s his bedtime “treat” and because it helps set the tone for my entire day.

I haven’t done any scientific research, but anecdotally, I have noticed a dramatic difference in my level of productivity on days I make my bed versus days I don’t. I believe (also, not scientific) that this is all psychological.

The visual of the bed being made is usually the last thing as I see as I head out the door and one of the first things I see when I get home. When the bed is made, I feel like I have my shit together. The bedroom feels more orderly and it’s almost inspiring.

Same goes for the dishes. My husband will be the last person to tell you this … though he should be the first, he’s just too nice … I suck at dishes. I suck at cleaning. I suck at housework.

I’ve found that when the dishes and laundry pile up, I won’t do it. Period. I will leave it for him to do. (Sorry hubby).

Conversely, if the dishes are caught up or there’s just one load of laundry, I am all over that shit. I’ll unload the dishwasher and get (unjustly) irritated when my husband leaves dishes in the sink if the dishwasher is dirty and not full. One load of laundry? I’ll fold that bitch as soon as the dryer buzzes.

Since returning to work after AB was born, I’ve been making an effort to stay on top of these things because I know they won’t get done if I don’t. Well, they will, my husband will just do it all (sorry, again). Part of this is due to being insanely inspired by The Simplified Life by Emily Ley (its life changing y’all), but also because I have always felt guilty for not helping more with housework.

That said, I’m still not mopping the floors and I won’t stop asking for a house cleaning service. But, I will (try to) make the bed every day and help keep the dishes and laundry from exploding (like they did this week).

Fears and Anxiety

Worrying comes naturally to me. The worst case scenario always plays first, no matter how hard I try. I’m not a negative person, for the most part, but when it comes to the potential for something bad to happen I always jump strait to that conclusion. This is especially true when it comes to my family.

This summer one fear has haunted me more than others … drowning. It seems every day a new story pops in my feed about a child my son’s age drowning or experiencing dry drowning. We don’t have a pool or even easy access to one, but we’ve been swimming twice this summer and the anxiety I feel leading up to those events is paralyzing. I want to cancel plans. Find excuses. Anything to keep my children far, far away from water.

The worst part of the anxiety is simultaneously worrying that my anxiety will rub off on my child and make him or her afraid of water or anything remotely daring. So, for the most part, I do my best to bury that fear and try not to project it onto them. But, I know it happens. He can hear it in my voice when I tell him to not run by the pool, to stay back, to wait for Mommy and Daddy. He is timid and fearful in the water. It’s my job to make him comfortable and sometimes, my fear causes me to fail.

Aside from projecting my fears onto my child, I am also hyper aware of how much my anxiety annoys my husband. The eye rolls and audible sighs when I reiterate precautions we need to take and things we should be aware of  (rub in the spray sunscreen, watch for dry drowning symptoms after he randomly jumps face first into the water, etc.) don’t help my anxiety, quite the opposite actually. Knowing that he dismisses my fears makes me feel as though I am 100% responsible for ensuring safety, even when I rationally know I am not. By acting as if my anxiety is trivial, he signals his lack of caring or attention. Whether that is the intention or not, that is how I perceive the reaction.

Partners of people with anxiety, don’t do this. As trivial as it may seem to you, it’s not at all trivial to your partner. By ignoring it or dismissing them all you accomplish is exacerbating their anxiety. Be supportive. Listen.

I wish my brain wasn’t wired this way. I wish I could be carefree and cavalier. But, I’m not. Becoming a mom has only compounded this anxiety. Having people I care about gives me more to worry and fret over.

After the fact I can usually see and understand my fears and anxiety were not realized and usually I can start to move forward. Like with flying, the more I have to travel, the quieter my anxiety gets. But, it doesn’t take much to trigger it.

To help the pool anxiety for both my son and me, we’ve signed him up for swim classes. I’m sure I’ll still have anxiety and fear, but I hope I can Chanel that into more productive areas rather than worrying about drowning every single time we head out for a fun day at the pool.

 

Mama, What Do You Do For You?

Last night I stayed up until 11pm reading a book. I devoured every page and allowed myself to get lost in a world without responsibilities. I didn’t check the time. I didn’t worry about my rapidly approaching wake up call from my 5.5 month old (thank you Leap 5). I just let the fictional characters fill my mind and distract me.

It was glorious, but I paid the price today in exhaustion.

Remember when you could pull a double shift, stay out past 2am and then do it all again the next day? Remember the endless energy? The high alcohol tolerance? The lack of real responsibilities? No one repeating your name over and over while busting through the bathroom door you swore you locked?

Those days are long gone, but I wouldn’t trade a day of my current chaos for the nights of total freedom. Well, except maybe the part about pooping in peace. I miss that the most.

But, those blissful 4 hours of getting lost in a novel reminded me how much I miss and just how much I need to do something for myself every day. I need to recharge my “me” battery. I need to forget reality and mute the anxiety and nagging that comes with motherhood.

I cannot recall the last time I did that. During my last massage I thought about work and my kids the entire 90 minutes. Last time I got a pedicure, I checked emails instead of relaxing. I don’t even remember the last time I worked out.

I’m tired and exhausted. My battery hasn’t been recharged in months. And while I know this is a short season in life, I can’t help but long for the nights of uninterrupted sleep.

And no, Karen, I’m not wishing time away or ignoring the blissful moments that come with being a mom to a 3 year old and a 5.5 month old.

I am not doing either of those things. But, I am slowly realizing that I cannot continue at the pace and rate I am going.  My health suffers – when I don’t sleep, I don’t make smart food choices. When I don’t make smart food choices, I don’t workout. When I don’t workout, I feel tired and sluggish and the cycle continues. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Mamas, we can’t keep running on empty. We have to take time to recharge. We need time to rest and relax and have conversations that don’t center around poop (diapers, potty training, husbands that take an hour to poop, longing to poop in solitude – for real, as a parent 85% of your conversations are about poop).

This is my challenge to me … and maybe you if this resonates … commit to at least 30 minutes of alone time. Workout. Sip your coffee. Drink a glass of wine. Read a book. Lock the door when you go poop. Your kids may not realize it and you might not either, but taking this time will make you a better mom, wife and woman. You need this.

Husbands, if you’re reading this, give your wife that time. Don’t talk to her while she’s trying to read. Don’t knock on the bathroom door. Don’t say her name. Don’t send the kids looking for mommy. Dad, you’ve got this. And Mamas, he’s got this. Don’t stress about how Dad dads. He has his way, you have yours and that’s okay. In fact, that’s perfect.

Mamas, give yourself 30 minutes to recharge. What are you going to do for you?

Me? I’m going to get my butt upstairs for a workout. I need it.

Finding a Tribe

I’ve never been the type of girl to have a group of girlfriends, though I have always dreamed of finding a pack of women I could meet for coffee or cocktails a la Sex & The City. Once or twice in my life, I’ve come close. But, it never stuck. Drama happened and the pack split. Someone would say something about someone else and more than once, that someone else was me. I get it, I have a strong personality and strong opinions and I often rub people the wrong way. I’d apologize for this, but I like who I am and I am learning to care less about what others think or say about me.

Have I mentioned I also have trust issues? This fact combined with the above has led me to avoid large friend groups; especially of women. Despite this, I have always secretly longed for a tribe to call my own.

The minute I got my positive pregnancy test with my son, I logged on to the What to Expect app and scoured the message groups. Through this, I found a mom group on Facebook. In the four years since I joined, this group has been my lifeline. These women know pretty much everything about me – the good, the bad, the ugly and all the embarrassing “mom” questions in between.

They made me feel welcome and safe, which is something I can’t say I’ve ever felt before with a group of women.

Until last week.

I recently started a new job, one that I have been ridiculously excited for and that I think will be a huge opportunity for me. I shared my excitement with this group on a few occasions. I talked about the interviews and my excitement and also my hesitations. I shared with them some of the frustrations I had with my prior job. I shared everything.

On Wednesday of last week, I was in line at Starbucks and noticed a Trump bumper sticker on the car in front of me. It had a black marker line through it. For some reason, this made me chuckle and I took a photo and cropped out the license plate and identifying features of the car and posted it with the hashtag #noragrats. It was stupid and silly. I didn’t think anything else about it.

Then on Friday, I learned that some of the members of my mom group took a screenshot of this post and sent it my new job’s Facebook page with a message saying they were disappointed in their hiring of someone like me that would admit to and brag about defacing a Trump bumper sticker on social media.

Warning: I am likely going to get a bit dramatic here.

My heart broke when I saw who had sent the message. I wasn’t particularly close with the person who’d sent the message, but she was part of my tribe and I’d shared so much with her and the rest of them and she’d used that to hurt me. It also really bothered me that they thought I was capable of damaging someone else’s property (for the record, I’m not and never would). Over the course of the weekend, I learned I wasn’t the only one that had been hurt by this small group of women within our tribe.

I legitimately thought I’d just lost the online friendships and support system I’d leaned on for four years. I was hurt and betrayed and devastated (I warned you I was going to get dramatic). I thought my tribe was gone.

It wasn’t.

I opened up to one of the moms in the group that I’d been closest to and told her what I’d learned. She along with a few others that I trusted and had leaned on personally before helped to remind me just how important this tribe was and just how strong we all are.

What’s my point?

My point is I’ve realized just how important it is to have a tribe and a support system. I’ve learned that sometimes it is best to take a few days to process before jumping into attack mode, and let me tell you, that was freaking hard to do. I wanted to blast this person and go at her with all my mama bear force – Good Lord that would have felt amazing for a minute, but it wasn’t the right thing to do. I was ready to jump ship and bail on my tribe – well, I did, but only for a few hours. But, I had a tribe to help talk me off the ledge and remind me that I wasn’t alone and that there were more important things.

It also reminded me just how horrible women can be to each other, whether it is out of jealous or whatever, I don’t know. And, I will never know what motivated this small group of women to go out of her way to hurt me or others. We talk. We gossip. We get catty. And let me tell you, I’ve been on both ends of this and they both suck. I hate how I feel when I gossip and it haunts me for weeks after. I despise myself when I catch myself doing catty shit. But being on the receiving end of it is so incredibly painful. I don’t ever want to cause another woman to feel how I felt after all of this.

Men. Don’t. Do. This. Shit.

Women can we please stop hating each other? Can we stop with the jealousy and the cattiness? Can we just stop being against each other and start supporting each other?

Why do we do this? What is it about women that makes us so damn competitive? Why do we seek to destroy rather than build up?

But you know what else I learned in all of this? Most women don’t do this. Most women want to support each other. They hate the gossip and the cattiness.

I am so grateful that my tribe is still there and that they fought for me. They will never know just how much it means to me that they showed up for me when I needed them. But, most importantly, they’ve reminded me how important it is for women to be strong for each other.

Before you send that nasty message about another woman, think about the consequences. Think about how hard we fight to be taken seriously. Think about how you can use your words to help rather than hurt. Be strong for yourself and for other women. Lift your fellow women up and stop tearing them down – it may make you feel better for a minute, but that feeling fades fast.

We are better than this. We deserve better. We can be better.

More importantly, find your tribe. Find your people. Let them in and don’t let them go. They are worth it and so are you.

To my tribe – you know who you are and I cannot thank you enough – and I hope you don’t mind me sharing this story with all two people that read my blog.

What If

Today two cars drove by my children’s daycare. Inside those two cars were men, kids really, with guns. They were shooting at each other. One of these kids is wanted in a murder that happened a few months ago. As they sped past my children’s daycare, the teachers thought they were hearing fireworks.

I was unaware. I was wrapping up a work meeting.

My daughter’s classroom faces the road. There are cribs near the windows. There were babies sleeping and cooing and playing while a rolling shootout passed their classroom.

My son’s class was gearing up for their weekly visit from the ice cream truck. Every Thursday afternoon, an ice cream truck comes to his school and his classmates line up to go outside and order a treat.

I’m sitting at home now, my daughter sleeping heavily on my chest while I listen to my husband and son laughing and being silly in the living room.

I’m a worrier. I am constantly playing out worse case scenarios in my mind. The details are vivid, not real, but vivid enough to take my breath away. 

I’m imaging the worst. My heart is racing and my eyes are burning as I fight back tears. The sound of my daughter’s soft breathing is echoing through my ears and I am grateful for each breath.

It didn’t happen today. It could have happened today. The guns. The bullets. They wizzed by my life today and I had no idea.

My babies are home safe. For that I am grateful. Today, the what if remains a what if. But, it’s a heavy one. 

Am I being over dramatic? Perhaps. But, in the world we live in, or rather, the America we live in, gun violence steals too many young lives every day. Too many mothers won’t ever hear their babies soft breathing or loud giggles.

Today, I am lucky, but, I am also terrified because it can happen. It does happen.

 

We Should All Care

I should know better. The reality of who we’ve been and who we’ve become shouldn’t be a surprise. But it’s hard to comprehend how anyone could see the images of these children and hear their cries and not feel compassion. As a mother I would do anything to keep my children safe, including leaving my home land in hopes of finding a safe place where my children could have a brighter future.

My children will likely never know the poverty these countries know. They won’t know the violence or the despair. Their bellies are full. Their homes are safe. They are privileged. I am privileged.

The horror these families face is a reality I’ll never know. But that doesn’t mean I can pretend it doesn’t exist. Quite the opposite. My heart and conscience demand that I don’t ignore it.

If you’re capable of justifying the actions of this administration, look deep inside your heart and soul and imagine for a moment what they lived through.

War.

Starvation.

Gang violence.

Rape.

Abductions.

Sex and human trafficking.

Thousand mile journeys with no real promises.

Unimaginable despair.

Murder.

If your child faced this future, what would you do? Would you do everything in your power to ensure your life was not their future? Would you run towards the only light on? Would America be that beacon of hope you so desperately need?

Now, imagine that you finally made it. A future was possible. You pull your baby in tight, hug them, kiss their cheek and just as you go to whisper, “we’re safe, you’re safe,” a stranger rips your child from your arms and arrests you. Your hands cuffed. Your child is screaming and crying for you. Their tiny, helpless body trembles with uncontrollable sobs. You cannot hold them. You cannot comfort them. They are taken further and further away from you, their tears and cries for “Mommy, Mommy!” echo in your ears. But, they’re gone now. You close your eyes and see their tiny dirt covered face streaming with tears.

That may be the last image of your child. You may never see them again. You may never hold them again.

Put yourself in that mother’s place as you tuck your safe, fed and healthy child into bed tonight. Feel that mother’s anguish as you shut the door to their dark, but clean and decorated bedroom. Go sit in your comfortable bed and know that you have peace of mind that your child is safe. Close your eyes and picture your sweet child as you last saw them – laughing and playing. 

You are privileged. You are more than privileged.

Can you still justify the forced separation of families? Can you still look at these mothers and fathers with disdain and disgust?

If you can and if you still don’t understand the inhumanity in all of this, I don’t know what else to say.

If They Knew

I love my life – my husband, my children, our home, my career and my family. Every single day I work to remember this and to not take it for granted. But, every single day I fight the fear and inner voice that tells me they would be better off without me, that their lives would be easier without dealing with the burden of me.

It happens in the middle of the night. It happens driving to work. It happens sitting in meetings. It happens at the dinner table. It happens as I am holding my babies. My mind slips away from reality and dives head first into every negative thought and feeling I have towards myself – I am not worthy of my husband or his love, my children need a mother that is stronger/better/nicer than me, I don’t do enough for them, I am not enough for them, my husband has to work too hard to love me, maybe none of them actually love me, am I good enough for anyone to love, I don’t even deserve any of their love or anyone else’s love for that matter. The voice nags and nags, it pulls me deeper into the void and further away from the world around me. It’s suffocating. As I feel it dragging me deeper and deeper, I push away the people that could pull me to safety- if they knew I had these thoughts, would they think less of me? Would they validate the voice? Would they see me differently? I can’t let the weakness show. I can’t let them see this side of me because it will make all of my fears a reality. They’ll know I am a fraud. They’ll know I don’t deserve them.

So, I withdraw. I pull away from people. I stop doing the things that make me happy. I shut down. Sometimes I go online and start deleting posts and stories I’ve shared. I start erasing my life and disengaging. After all, I’m not worth their time, love or affection anyway.

I don’t know where these thoughts come from. What I do know is that when they start talking, they flood my entire body. The vast emptiness and desperation attacks me and touches every last inch of me. It’s all consuming. It’s almost like walking outside in 100 degree weather with 90% humidity. I can’t breathe. I can barely walk. I am  drudging through quick sand and desperately searching for solid ground, but can’t find the energy to push forward.

I don’t routinely fantasize about death or seriously consider actions towards it, but there are days and weeks where I can understand and relate to the thought process that leads someone to that decision. I’ve also thought about the ways it could be done, which would be the least messy or painful. My thoughts have teetered in that dark tunnel and my inner monologue has wrestled with the words as I’ve slid further and further into the rabbit hole of depression. I’ve felt the darkness and the emptiness strangling me. I don’t know what it is that pulls me back or keeps me from diving into the bleakness. Something keeps saving me from myself.

I’d love to tell you that it’s my love for my children and family. Or that it’s some super power within me. More likely it is another form of fear. The fear of the unknown or the fear of nothingness. Perhaps my fear of not knowing is stronger than my fear of not being enough or worthy of the life I love. Maybe it’s because there is occasionally a break in the darkness and I can scream at the voice to shut up. I can’t silence it, but I can drown it out with loud music and distractions. She’s always there though. She always reminds me that maybe, just maybe, their lives would be easier if I weren’t there to bother them.

I’ve never talked to anyone about these feelings, and, until now, I’ve never written them down or put them out there. It’s hard being vulnerable and open. And as much as I share about my life on social media, I never share the full story. But, the more we talk about depression and suicide, the more we remove the stigma around mental health.

If, like me, you’ve felt yourself slipping into the dark tunnel of depression and have had thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255. Talk to someone. There is no shame in feeling this way and there is no shame is seeking help. You are not alone. I am not alone.

We are the Bullies

Growing up I was on both the giving and receiving end of bullying. I was guilty of following the pack and not standing up for kids, but there were times I did. There were times I was on the other side of the pack and was picked on and bullied. Back then (way back in the 80s and 90s) my mom always encouraged me to not only be the bigger person but to also embrace the emotions that came from being bullied. I was reassured that it was okay to cry and it was okay to empathize and feel others’ pain. She reassured both my brother and I that our sensitivity to and respect of not only our feelings but those of others’ was and is a good thing.

Today’s kids aren’t taught this. They are told that feelings are a weakness and that caring for others’ feelings is being a snowflake. If they are bullied or picked on, they are told to suck it up and toughen up.

We mock safe spaces.
We mock empathy.
We mock feelings.
We mock emotions.
We mock sensitivity.
We mock kids who speak up.
We mock those who are different from us.
We mock those that are bullied.
We mock their tears.

We are the bullies.

By teaching our children that showing feelings or compassion is bad, we are creating a society of emotionless and apathetic citizens. And we wonder why we are quickly becoming the nation of school shootings. We wonder how a bully like Donald Trump was elected president. We wonder how bullies become the talking heads on extremist media.

We are teaching our children that feelings do not matter and to just suck it up. We are accepting the behavior of the bullies and punishing the bullied. How messed up and backwards is this?

People aren’t “snowflakes” or “cucks” because they respect the feelings of others and acknowledge their own feelings. These are both characteristics of strong people and the very characteristics we should be looking for in our leaders. We need to embrace our feelings and we need to show and feel empathy towards others. We need to teach more than tolerance and instead focus on acceptance and compassion. We need to welcome emotions. We need to welcome differences.

If we want to change the direction we are heading, we have to stop this whole attitude of “suck it up” when it comes to kids that are bullied and we need to address the real problem of bullying – both in our schools and among our politicians and adults. The internet gives bullies a safe space to hide behind their words and we all feel more emboldened behind the keyboard. But we aren’t gaining anything from this and the only thing that we accomplish is digging deeper divisions.