Tag Archives: parenting lessons

Spilling Red Wine On My Favorite White Dress

I’ve been buying a lot of clothes lately. It turned out that while I had some professionalish clothes to wear as a teacher, the standards for professional are a little higher when you’re working to garner the respect of teachers, some of whom are significantly older than you. Glasses: on. Heels: on. Jewelry: on. Make-up: let’s not go nuts.

Everyone is sick of hearing me complain about the fact that I had to buy bigger clothes after giving birth (I mentioned recently to my mother-in-law that there was a point during pregnancy at which everything collapsed, and that buoyancy and elasticity of the pre-pregnancy body has yet to rejoin me). In any case, I have been shopping and trying to strategically buy items that will layer and accentuate and professionalize.

I’ve been strutting a little in my new duds, “smelling myself” so to speak. It feels really nice to leave the house feeling pretty and confident. And I’ve worked myself into a little bit of a spending frenzy.

It’s funny how having a one year old can really help put some perspective on things. For one, he doesn’t care even a little bit about what I am wearing. Except maybe, since he is still nursing, he prefers tops that give him easy access to a snack. But truly, that’s his only fashion requirement.

What my one year old does care about is getting his hands in the dog dish, digging in the mud, chewing up fruits, preferably the juiciest ones that leave red stains dripping down his chin and into the folds of his neck.

And then, of course, he cares about hugging me. Because I’m his mama.

All this has got me thinking about my fancy new clothes. Because Murphy’s law says that the moment I put on my snazzy clothes my son wants me to hold him, grimy fingers and all. And of course I hold him, because what I love more than feeling beautiful is feeling loved. And my little boy gives me love by the truck full, more than I could have ever imagined.

My son is the balance to my vanity. So often, in so many ways. Like when I start to get all big in the head, worrying about whether or not to buy the shirt I really really want to buy from Chico’s, but can’t because it is $50, and I start to wonder if I should put it on a credit card, but then start to think about whether I want to go down that road and the spiral starts to spin out of control, just then my son will hold out his hands and wipe them all over me as if to say, “It’s just a shirt, Mama, don’t miss this moment. It’s just a shirt.”

While reflecting on how my son helps me to keep my priorities in order this past week, my family went on vacation to visit my parents in Minnesota. Among other things my mom prepared a beautiful, indulgent dinner in honor of my thirty-first birthday. In celebration, I had put on my favorite white dress with flowers and a coral scarf for a splash of color. Just after sitting down, while being served a slice of tomato pie, a wine glass was knocked over, shattering the glass and spilling red wine all over my favorite white dress.

wine on dress

One final object lesson for my week of rumination.

I changed out of the dress and into sweatpants and laughed the rest of the evening through. And it was probably best, since the elastic waistband of my sweatpants is a forgiving friend on nights filled with the choice between six different flavors of ice cream.

My mom got the stain out of my dress. I’m grateful because it is, after all, my favorite. But it was frosting on the birthday cake, because I had already let the dress go. It’s just a dress.

I wish I could always be this gracious. I wish I could always live my life with open hands. I wish there weren’t so many moments when things got in the way of people. I don’t want to be that person who tells her son not to touch her because she’s wearing her nice clothes. I don’t want to be the person who gets upset when her son comes home with rips in the knees of his school clothes. I don’t want to be owned by what I own. And yet, in that out of control spiral, swiping the plastic card again and again, it is so hard to take a deep breath and say, “Does this really matter, or is it just a dress?”

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I haven’t bought the Chico’s shirt. At least not yet. I have enough shirts to clothe a small village. For this second, I have that perspective. I’ll keep you posted about whether or not I buy it tomorrow.

Oh, and for the record, Dawn dish soap works wonders on those tough stains.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

 

How To Make A Baby: The First Year

It’s been almost a year since I pushed a human being out of my body. This past week I have been literally aching to have another baby. I’m telling myself this sudden desire for baby number two is a result of this important birth anniversary. Biology is an incredible thing. (I think I hear my mom cheering.)

I’m not going to give you the play by play of how our baby, or any baby for that matter, was made. Sorry. Or maybe, you’re welcome. But what does it take to “make a baby” a success?

I have read a lot of parenting articles, blogs, and books and some have been helpful and some have been not helpful, and the conclusion I’ve drawn is that nobody really knows. Therefore I feel as qualified as anyone else to offer you my personal conclusions about parenting, one year in.

“Good Mom” Does Not Equal DIY

Every day my son gets a sheet from the daycare chronicling his day. Without really talking about it, my husband and I have been saving them. That is, until a few weeks ago, when the sheets had accumulated on every surface of our house and in the cracks of the seats in our cars, in purses, bags, drawers, and the diaper bag. I asked my husband if it was important to him if we kept them. He was surprised, saying he had only been saving them for me.

Then my husband said, “Huh, I guess I just imagined you were more of a scrapbook kind of person than you actually are.”

I threw them away. All of them.

In a perfect world I would scrapbook everything from my son’s first footprints to the sheets he brings home from daycare. In a perfect world, I would have remembered to take the photo each month with my son in his cute onesie stating his age (I did three of the first six months, and then realized around month six, when all the pictures looked exactly the same, the purpose of the stuffed animal sitting next to my friends’ monthly baby picture updates: size perspective. I’m a quick study. By the time I’d made this discovery my son had had a diaper explosion, ruining his six month onesie, and ending the project.) In a perfect world this isn’t what my son’s first photo album would look like:

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Let it be known it took me five minutes to dig this box out of the closet for this photo. That’s how low this is on my priority list.

In anticipation of my son’s first birthday my coworker and I sat during our lunch break and browsed Pinterest photos for ideas of first birthday themes. I got so excited looking over the ideas and planning out foods. I settled on a dog theme, complete with puppy chow snacks. An hour later a different coworker asked me what my son’s first birthday party theme would be. In a moment of clarity I said, “Rachel’s House”.

We’re ordering the party food from Costco. Funny thing? I have no regrets about how I’ve been spending my time. And my son still seems pretty happy whenever I enter the room. Though I suppose there’s still plenty of time for him to hold the lack of photo albums against me.

“Sleep Training Sucks Balls”

I apologize for the language. Allow me to explain. I recently got back in touch with an old friend from High School. Via text she told me she’s been reading my blog and then said, “Are you still sleep training? Sucks balls!!!” I laughed for a full five minutes.

It isn’t just that we have tried every sleep configuration possible, including: holding him through the night, co-sleeping, him sleeping next to our bed, us sleeping next to his bed, sleeping in the play pen next to the bed, moving the crib into our room, moving the crib into his room. We’ve tried sleeping in the swing, sleeping in the bouncer, sleeping on the floor, with and without blankets, pacifiers, comfort objects, mobiles, and sound machines.

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The bigger challenge is the fear. The fear that even though he’s slept the last three nights, we’re one bout of sickness away from starting over. From the dreaded beginning. Or the fear that he, and we, will never sleep again. Ever.

By the way, for all of you itching to tell me it gets better, I know, I know. Wanna know what’s even more helpful than telling me it gets better? Offering to take an overnight shift to watch him.

Finally, a parenting law: the moment a baby falls asleep one of the following will happen: a doorbell ring, a dog bark, a phone buzz, firecrackers, battery operated toys coming to life with creepy songs and flashing lights, car alarms, kitchen alarms, or fire alarm. If none of the above happen, you will trip and stub your toe on the way out of the sleeping baby’s room. If you break your toe without making a noise, you win. This is Truth with a capital T.

Do What Works Until It Doesn’t. Repeat.

Sometimes it works to leave dishes piled on the kitchen counters and onto the floor. Sometimes it doesn’t. Then we wash them. Sometimes it works to feed our son organic food. Sometimes it doesn’t. And we give him regular generic brand apple sauce. Sometimes it works to drown your postpartum sorrows in endless slices of cinnamon swirl bread with butter. Sometimes it doesn’t. And you buy bigger clothes and eat less carbs.

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All random examples of course.

I felt some guilt over the fact that for awhile the only thing that calmed my son down while riding in the car was listening to Eminem and Rihanna sing the song “Monster”. Did I listen to too much top 40 radio while pregnant? Likely. Is it worth listening to “Monster” forty times in a row to avoid a long car ride with a screaming baby?

You’ll have to decide that for yourself.

Tell the Truth 

I cried for four hours every day the week after my son was born. The crying slowed down a little each week until I only cried every other day, once a week, and finally only when watching heartwarming videos. (OK, Always sanitary napkin commercials. Their marketing campaigns have been impressive lately.)

I recently realized I drove home with my son’s carseat not snapped into the carseat base, as the carseat base had a sock, a highlighter, and a metal fork in it.

When my son was three months old I put too much weigh on the handle of his stroller and he fell out of the stroller and scratched his eyelid. Arguably one of the worst moments of my life.

We switched to using brown sheets because that was easier than changing them as often as our son threw up on them.

I know, gross.

But also, a relief. This past year some of my favorite moments have been when I have told one of these stories to someone and they’ve respond with, “Oh, let me tell you…” and then matched or topped my story with one of their own.

There aren’t a lot of answers, but there sure are a lot of stories.

Come-Fly-Me-Balloon-Cake

One year. I can’t believe it’s already been one year. But my almost standing, almost walking, almost talking son is proof that indeed, life continues, ready or not. It may be awhile before baby number two (sorry Mom) but in the meantime, I am the proudest mama of my little one year old.

Thank you for the lessons, my sweet boy. Happy Birthday.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

My (Almost) Perfect Son

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I didn’t really feel like writing this week. I had the idea for the post early on, but the week has gotten away from me and here I sit in front of a blank page wishing I could transfer thoughts into words much more efficiently than with the clackity clack of my computer keyboard. Also, this stuff is hard to write about. Because it’s about me, and my need to control everything in my life and have everything be just…right…

Here’s what happened. I was hanging out at church, rehearsing for singing the next day in service, when a friend casually said to me, “[Your son]’s a grumpier baby than average.”

Everything came to a grinding halt.

My head was full of a million thoughts. The obvious, strongest thought being: “Shut your mouth, you don’t know anything.”

I try not to say things like that out loud, because they are rarely ever helpful, even if they are momentarily satisfying. The clean up from that is rarely fun, and usually involves having to apologize and losing the upper (smug) hand in any given situation. Instead I go for the long game. I blog about it.

OK, snarkety snark. Everyone will be happy to know that my friend and I are reconciled and we send each other funny text messages again and all is well and good and I promise I am not holding a grudge.

But the salient issue here is not whether or not my son is grumpier than average (though he isn’t, I swear it). The issue is that my instantaneous reaction was to reject any and every idea that my son is anything but perfect. My brain went to fifteen separate examples of compliments we’ve been given by random strangers, without bias, about our perfect child. Or even better, it went to thinking about all the examples of other babies who are much, much fussier than my son.

Because comparison always helps every situation.

And it isn’t that any of those things are untrue, but I was so violently angry and defensive. “How dare you!” was much faster to the front of my mind than I would have ever expected. I remember being told about the Mama Bear syndrome, but I didn’t expect the paw swipe to be so instinctual.

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My son isn’t perfect. I say this with no conviction, more because logically it makes sense. I’m not perfect, nor is anyone I know. And since I don’t remember an angel coming to me to tell me that I was giving birth to God, then there’s a pretty good chance my son isn’t perfect, either.

So as I sit and clackity clack on this keyboard of mine, forcing a reflection I don’t really want to have, I think my desire for him to be perfect is something I need to think about long and had. Because what happens when I get the first phone call from a teacher at the daycare telling me he hit another child? Will I stand adamantly on the fact that there is no way MY child would do such a thing?

Or will I allow my child to make mistakes, to fall down, to not be the best (a word my friend says is loaded and should be removed from my vocabulary.) Will I allow him to make mistakes and even better, to come alongside and help him learn from those mistakes?

Perhaps more important, will I allow my son to be himself? Even if that means he is grumpier than the average baby? (But seriously, he isn’t.) I thought that giving my son the freedom and space to be who he is would be a lot easier than it is, and I certainly didn’t expect these feelings to arise in me only ten months into parenting.

But I have this wiggling, nagging feeling that allowing my son to be who he is means letting go of my expectations of how things should be, and accepting how things actually are. It may just look a lot less than a raised bear claw and a lot more like open hands, willing to receive feedback, willing to learn from all of it. It may even mean (sigh) starting to say with conviction that my son is not perfect. (Which is easier to do when he’s arching his back in protest or waking up multiple times at night. Can I get an amen?)

The truth is that I don’t really know who my son is yet. I know so much about him, like the smell of the top of his head and the way his pinky toes curl I know how to tickle him in just the right place to make him laugh until he can’t breathe. I know that putting him in a swing on the playground will bring endless joy, and trying to feed him bananas will bring endless pain.

But there’s so much I don’t know yet. And the miracle of watching him explore and discover the world around him more often than not leaves me breathless.

I don’t want my desire for a perfect son to get in the way of loving and appreciating the son I have.

A son who is not perfect. But also not grumpy.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel