Parenting Law #25: Mommy brain never goes away.


ToDoList

I will not forget my children.

I wish I had better news for new moms.  But the truth is that the mommy brain fog, while it lifts after the newborn weeks, does not ever fully clear.  I have never been more certain of it.  When I first wrote about mommy brain, I was hopeful it would be gone by now.  It’s not.

On Monday, I took dinner to my boss because his wife just had their third child, and somehow we got on the topic of mommy brain.  He said, “My wife just says she feels like she’s gotten so dumb.”  I said, “I know exactly how she feels, and I wish I could say it gets better, but it never goes away.”  Case in point: later that night when I was getting things out of my trunk I found the baby gift I had bought for them still in my trunk.  The irony is I put it there a week earlier so I wouldn’t forget it on the morning I was driving into the office to take them food.

Let me be clear: mommy brain makes you feel stupid in the early weeks after giving birth.  But what remains after that is a forgetfulness.  It’s looking for your keys while you’re holding them.  It’s driving off with your cup of coffee on your roof.  It’s going to the grocery store for peanut butter and arriving home with two full bags and no peanut butter.  (These are all things I’ve done.)  And the forgetfulness is directly proportional to how many things you are tracking in your brain.  The busier you are and the less sleep you get, the more forgetful.  So since the past two weeks have been pretty full, I did something yesterday that I would have never thought possible.

I decided to call my dad while in the carpool line waiting for Zach.  I was relaying all the details about the stains on our basement carpet when I pulled out of the school parking lot and, while waiting at the light, heard Ethan interrupt my conversation with, “Mom, did we get Zach?”  I started responding, “Ye … ” as I turned my head and realized Zach was not in the car.  I said, “Dad, I gotta go, I have to focus, I just drove through the carpool line without getting Zach.”  I wondered how I managed to forget my kid when I didn’t really forget my kid.  I was there, just not “all there.”  The car in front of me was the last to get a kid in the group ahead of me, so as it drove off with its child, I just followed it out of the lot without stopping as the first car in my group.  This could happen to anyone, right?

Then I started thinking about how I needed to take this as a real warning that I simply have too much going on and I need to focus on each moment and the task at-hand without trying to multitask.  But it didn’t take long for me to forget the lesson I had just learned, because about an hour later I was driving to an appointment while making another one on the phone and I missed my exit on the highway, making me late.

As I pulled up at home last night, I was laughing at my day as I got out of the car.  Greg pulled up and I told him, “I’m laughing about how I left Zach at school.”  He pointed at my van and said, “You left your lights on.”  I realized then that my brain was trying to tell my body something.  So I went to bed early, and though I slept longer than usual, I know there are forgetful things I did today as well, I just can’t remember what they are right now.  And I have come full circle … so if you’re a new mom, don’t let the mommy brain bother you.  Embrace it, because you’re going to have it forever.

 

 

 

 

 

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Parenting Law #6: Birthing is not the height of parenting pain, it is the beginning of it


Pre-bedtime dance parties can be super fun.  They can also be dangerous.  Tonight, after finally hooking up a radio in the boys’ room, Ethan was so excited to hear the Biebs that he jumped right into my mouth.  Like his head collided into my chin.  I got a fat, bloody lip and my teeth are still hurting.

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And it got me thinking about how wonderful parenting is while simultaneously being painful.  There’s no better lesson about how life is a journey with the good, the bad and the ugly like having kids.

We have so, SO much to be thankful for, and there are good, happy, joyful moments every day.  But there are also hard, disappointing, try-my-patience-for-the-umpteenth-time and – yes – painful moments almost daily as well.  In the words of Clark W. Griswold, “It’s all part of the experience.”

My kids are 8, 7 and 3 now.  They’re not old, but they’re not young.  I’ve struggled about whether to blog about so many things because now that they’re getting older, I want to respect who they are becoming and I don’t want to share things with the world that might be too personal.  Everyone knows two-year-olds are crazy, demanding Hitlers, so it is funny to write about them.  But when those two-year-olds are 8 and they tantrum, or are 7 and cry over every little thing, it seems like stepping over a line a little to write about them and their struggles.  (This is partly why I simply haven’t blogged much.)  But in order to be authentic, you have to be real about all parts of life.  And the reality of having children is that it’s messy.  And painful.  Physically painful sometimes, yes.  Emotionally painful, absolutely.  Mentally painful, you bet.

So if you’re embarking on this parenting journey, you’re in for quite the ride.  If you have a crazy labor and delivery story (like just about every woman I know), I can relate to your pain.  And I can also honestly say it’s just beginning.

But it is all so very worth it.  There’s no one I’d rather dance with at 7:30 at night to “Sorry” than over-exuberant Ethan.  Even if it means I’ll get a fat lip.  I’d do it again tomorrow night in a heartbeat.

Posted in Coping, parenthood laws, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What I Really Want for Mother’s Day.


IMG_1305Along the lines of my previous Top Ten list for Mother’s Day:

I love being a mother.  Each of my children is such a blessing, and I really do – for the most part – enjoy serving them.  Yes, there are moments every day that try my patience and make me wonder how old I’ll be when I get to count on not getting woken up or interrupted in the middle of every. single. thing I am doing (yes, even peeing).  But Mother’s Day makes me reflect on both the joys of motherhood and also the service of it.

Along those lines, here are the things on my mind:

 

  1.  I would like to sleep until I wake up.  I know this will naturally be between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. anyway, but I would like to go to bed tonight, not have anyone wake me up in the middle of the night, and not hear any noise until I naturally wake up.
  2. I don’t want to have to think about feeding myself or anyone else.  I just want meals to magically appear at the right times.
  3. I also don’t want to answer any questions about food, especially not about eating candy or junk so I don’t have to say “No” and feel like a food Nazi on Mother’s Day.
  4. Honestly, while on the subject of questions, I would really love to have every question from every child begin with the word “Daddy” tomorrow.
  5. I would love some homemade gifts from my kids.  Honestly.
  6. It would be great to have a chunk of time when I get to do whatever I want.  I think I would use it to load the car with about half of the kids’ toys and drop them off at charity.
  7. I don’t want to clean up any messes, deal with pee or poop (not even from the dog) or wipe any tushies.
  8. I don’t want to use any appliances such as the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer.
  9. I would love a good back scratching.
  10. Most importantly, I would love some family snuggles, definitely at night, or after I wake up ON MY OWN from that solid night’s sleep.

What would YOU like?

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Parenting lesson #22: Everyone lies, especially parents


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It’s possible my last post made me sound like an amazing parent who always sticks to her guns, never issues empty threats, and never goes back on what she says so her bipolar two-year-old will respond perfectly to every situation by age three.

I lie.  Or maybe I stretch the truth.  Or perhaps I’m simply implying I’m better than I actually am.  At the end of the day, a lie is a lie.  (Yes, even if it’s about the Elf on the Shelf, or Santa Claus, or that if your kid doesn’t eat green vegetables, his nose will turn green and his feet will turn purple.  That’s another lie I tell.)


 

Thursday is a great example of a time when I absolutely caved.  I had just dropped off my older two at school.  Let me digress a little by letting you in on the fact that Ethan is obsessed with lip balm.  In fact, recently after I told him he couldn’t have my lip balm, he took my secretary table where I keep the lip balm and flipped it up, spilling my full cup of coffee into all of my makeup.  But that’s another post.


 

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This is but a glimpse of the coffee mess.


 

So I was on my commute home from school drop off, and Ethan asked for my lip balm.  I said, “Maybe later.”  (I am really trying not to say “No” so much.)  Of course that was not an acceptable response, because two seconds later happened to be later.  So he asked again. “Another time,” I said.  Again, the question.  “I already answered you, Ethan.  I said later.”  Again.  “No, not right now.”  It was probably the sixth or seventh time that I said, “Okay, fine.  You can have it.”

This was that parenting moment.  That moment when you KNOW you are sending a mixed message.  When you know you shouldn’t say “No” and then give your child what he wants in the next second, but you’re just too darned drained and tired to keep bantering.  It’s also the moment when there is a high risk of things ending badly, but for the momentary relief you so badly want from the badgering (or noise, or sibling spats, or whatever the case may be), you cave.  You make what you said just moments earlier a lie.

About twenty minutes of peace and quiet later – which is precisely what I knew I was buying with my change of heart – I arrived at the gym.  When I opened his door to get Ethan out, there was no more lip balm left in the Eos container.  It was empty, and Ethan looked at me and said, “Mama, I need a napkin to wash my hands.”  No kidding!  His hands, seat belt, and jacket were so artistically smothered in berry lip balm.


 

 


 

We simply can’t get it right all the time.  There is no perfect parent and it is impossible to be 100% consistent.  But also, it’s not necessarily inconsistency if our children are able to convince us to change our minds.  I actually think it’s important for my children to know that they do have negotiating and reasoning power with me, especially with my older two.

Sometimes Eliza and Zach convince me to change my mind about giving them a treat, or having longer to play, or, really anything.  And when they do, I get to share with them the reason I have changed my mind.  When they’ve made a great point (“But mom, I already finished my homework and we’re getting along so well!”), I can recognize it.

And when I’ve changed my mind for no explicable reason except that I’m buying some peace and quiet, I use it as an opportunity to explain grace to them.  I like connecting these dots for them.  I connect the idea that sometimes we get things – good things we want – for no reason at all, but simply because we exist and are loved.  I don’t believe that Ethan can grasp that yet, but I still tell him that’s what he’s getting.  My older two began asking me for grace when they were three or four, so it’s not far off.

For now, I need to remind myself that sometimes, giving in, or turning myself into a liar, is worth the 20-minute drive of quiet when I am able to string some cohesive thoughts together.  And cleaning up smeared lip balm is also worth it.  A lot of parenting is weighing the various options in the moment and picking that one that works best in that situation.  There’s hardly ever one, black-and-white, always the right response.  And THAT’s no lie.

 

 

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Parenting Law #21: Two-year-olds are bipolar and skeptical


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My little prince, NOT eating his yogurt.

Sometimes I think my daily life looks like the scene from “Coming to America” when Prince Hakeem meets his arranged betrothed, Imani Izzy.  Imani has been trained her whole life to do anything he asks of her, and he tests just how far she will go to meet his demands.  (“Make a noise like an orangutan” ring any bells?)  The difference in my life is that my prince is a two-year-old who, after getting exactly what he wants, changes course and decides screaming for the exact opposite is in order.

On any given day, we have many conversations about food, toys, and activities that go something like this:

Me: “(Prince) Ethan, you’ve been sick.  What would you like for breakfast?  Pick anything you’d like from the fridge.”

Ethan: “I want dat yoguht peas.”

Me: “Sure, please sit at the table to eat it.”

Ethan: “NO, I DON’T WANT DAT YOGUHT!!!!”

I don’t remember child #1 or child #2 doing this.  It’s very possible I blocked it from memory like every mother does for the survival of the human race.  Or maybe my older ones didn’t really test me in this particular way.  But at least a small part of me wants to take the yogurt and dump it all over him.  Some days I probably would if I could get past knowing I’d just be creating another mess to clean.

I had his teacher conference today, and the teacher reminded me that he is dealing with normal two-year-old issues such as making good choices, following directions, and learning to share.  Honestly, it must be really hard to be two.

Unlike Imani Izzy in “Coming to America,” I actually say “no” to my prince quite often.  Over the course of a day, he probably hears “no” or “not now” or “try this instead” so many more times than he hears “yes.”  Part of that is being two and making ridiculous requests, like “Can I eat dis wip balm?”; part is being the third child and having older siblings who get to do things he can’t but would love to do; and part of it is I am an older, more distracted, more easily exasperated mom now than I was five years ago.  In all seriousness, it must be really hard to start to understand you’re a person, and have so much to learn, but have so many handicaps.

My little Prince Hakeem is testing boundaries and trying to find his place in this world.  He wants to know just how much power he has, whether I mean what I say, and whether he can do whatever he wants.  When Ethan gets an answer he doesn’t like, he simply keeps asking the question over and over, assuming I must have lied the first (32) times I told him he couldn’t have any candy.  In fact, in the car the other day he asked me seven times for my soda and 14 times for dessert in a span of five minutes, despite my answer being the same “No” every single time.  Imagine wondering at every turn if “no” really meant “no,” or if it meant “maybe” or simply “not now.”  He has to figure out these things for himself.

Now more than ever, I have to patiently and consistently deal with his antics so he knows he can trust me and what I say, and also so he can grow into someone who respects authority instead of demands power.

If he wants me to bark like a dog for fun, I’ll probably do it for him.  If as soon as I start barking he changes his mind and decides he wants me to make a noise like an orangutan, I might even do that if he asks me nicely.  But if he’s screaming about getting exactly what he wants when he wants it, he’s not going to get it because this world is not his kingdom.  And he might need to test this truth thousands of times before he believes it.

 

Posted in Discipline, parenthood laws, Two-year-old, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Different – And Desirable – Level of Crazy


Violet Crawley

She is timeless.

I have completely neglected this blog.  There are a few reasons for it, or some might call them excuses, but I think they’re pretty valid.

  1.  I started a part-time job about a year ago, and while I love working in a somewhat official capacity, it leaves me less free time to write recreationally,
  2. Re-writing about the antics of a two-year-old does not help me cope like it did when I dealt with them for the first time ever, and
  3. I have three children.  Three beautiful, amazing, demanding and very different children.

Last weekend, some childless friends had us over with some other friends who have a two-year-old and six-month-old.  (They are in the thick of it.)  And the dad said, “Having two kids is not twice as much as having one kid.  It’s like three times as much.  It’s more than two kids.”  Yes.  A thousand times yes.  And then he turned to Greg and me, and I responded, “Three is like having five.”

Truly, once you have more children than you have arms to hold them, you are in a different ball game.  Writing about the daily shenanigans, brawls, mishaps, messes, spills, poop, and yes, pee of three children doesn’t hold the same wonder that writing about how crazy life gets when you add a second does.  It doesn’t seem like a special level of crazy anymore, because you adjust to it.  I am so used to not being able to complete a sentence or a thought that in the moments I am able to do so, it feels strange.  And if the kids are home and it’s quiet enough that I can string cohesive thoughts together, it means something bad is happening.

But I do want to write and document these moments and years.  Yes, they are crazy, but boy, are they amazing.  And I don’t want to miss the joy of what having a house full of noise and love represents.  Today, I found out that someone I know who is 17-weeks pregnant with her first child (after trying for a long time) has a cancerous tumor on her bladder.  And when you get slammed with news like this, which it seems like the past year has been full of stories of loss and heartache, it also seems a little weird to me now to vent about how challenging our healthy, crazy lives can be.  I don’t want to take these days or years for granted, or be ungrateful.  Right now I’m sure there are many, many parents who would trade places with me, who would give anything to pull their clothes out of the shower while in it because their two-year-old threw them in for fun.  (That happened yesterday.)

So, I’m not sure how much I will write, I only know I want to do more.  And I hope to tell funny stories and make people laugh because they can relate, but I also might get more pensive in my writing this year.  I’m not sure what the future holds in so many ways.  It wouldn’t be my first post of 2016 without a quote from the Dowager Countess.  In the first episode of Downton Abbey, during her fight with Isobel about the future of the hospital, Violet says, “I suppose we only know what we are capable of when we test our limits.”  I am looking forward to a year of testing mine, and coming out the other end a better mother, wife, and I hope, blogger.

Posted in Perspectives, Two-year-old | 2 Comments

Parenting lesson #20: Some lessons must be learned over and over. And over.


Olivia's photo at our front door with peonies, which fittingly represent healing and life.

Olivia’s photo at our front door with peonies, which fittingly represent healing and life.

I’ve never before re-posted a blog.  But I’m amazed at how easy it is for me to lose perspective.  Sometimes I revisit my old posts because I need to re-read the lessons I thought I had learned.

Originally, I called this post “I submit there are three certainties in life: death, taxes and poopage.”  Amazingly, the past 24 hours have not only involved poop (and the remembrance of a death), but also dog vomit and pee.  Of course, they have also included an out-of-town husband and a sick toddler, and with my third child, that means a menace who goes from extreme clinginess accompanied by inconsolability, to running around and destroying things like the Tasmanian Devil.  I think once you have more than one child, it’s all just chaos, and whether you’re cleaning poop off your flip-flop or vomit off the rug, it’s all just part of a day’s work.

The lesson I need to be reminded of is that these ARE the good days.  There are tough moments, but the days are good.  They are blessings.  I didn’t graciously respond to every inquiry or issue today — far from it — but I’ll take it.  I’ll take all the above, because the alternative is devastating.  Yesterday, our dear friends marked four years since their daughter Olivia died unexpectedly.  FOUR YEARS.  And I can assure you, the pain of the loss is so slowly ebbing.  I still keep her photo in our living room as a reminder to treasure all the moments.  And remember to hug and kiss your babies tonight one more time in their sleep because they are still here.

————–

When you spend all day with toddlers, chances are something either really gross or scary (or both) is going to happen at some point in the course of 12 hours.  It’s almost a given.  This morning, I took the kids out in the yard to play.  As I do most days as soon as I get out there, I started to clean up the dog poop to prevent the kids from either accidentally or purposely getting into it.  (Eliza still asks, “Mommy there’s dog poop.  Can I eat it?”)

Well, this morning somehow within about two minutes Zach not only managed to step in a fresh, wet pile (why it couldn’t have been a sun-dried one, I’ll never know), but he also managed to get some in his hair.

And moments like this are frustrating and annoying, but for the past few weeks, I’ve tried to thank God for them.  I don’t want to make anyone cry, but these two weeks have been tough.  Dear friends of ours lost their beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Olivia, in a tragic drowning accident on June 23rd.  And I’ve lived through tragic deaths before; but this one has hit me more than any other unexpected loss.  This family is just so amazing, so loving, so wonderful, that it seems so unfair for them to have to live through something like this.  At the viewing, I was hugging Steve, Olivia’s dad, and I said, “You give great hugs.”  And he said, “Hugs are all I’ve got right now.  Do me a favor and hug and kiss your babies for me when you get home.”

I’ve been so struck by how much EVERY moment is a gift.  Though not likely, and certainly not fun to think about, any moment could be my last moment with one of my precious little ones.  And I’ve really pondered that these past couple of weeks.  When Zach has been waking me up (almost nightly for a reason I still haven’t determined, but I think it’s nightmares), in my tiredness and frustration, I’m trying to feel blessed that I can hold him and touch him and comfort him.  When Eliza and I have one of our 72 daily conversations that exacerbates my patience,  I’m trying to be thankful for her inquisitiveness (or desire to be annoying – I am not sure which it is yet).

Just this morning, we had this conversation:

Me: “Eliza, we need to put the Play-Doh away because you’re dropping it on the floor and Zach doesn’t understand that he shouldn’t eat it, so we need to play with it when he’s not around,” and she says,

“Why mommy?” and I say,

“Because he’s still too young to understand that it’s not food,” and then she says,

“But why mommy?”

and I try patiently to come up with an answer (my favorite these days is that I don’t have to explain myself to her and she should trust my judgment).

But back to my point, I guarantee that if she weren’t here tomorrow to ask me these questions, I would give anything (an arm? a leg? all our assets?) for one more annoying moment with her.  And if something happened to Zach, I would give anything to clean the poop off of his shoes again if I could have one more of his amazing hugs.

So in my grief, I want to encourage you to enjoy the gross and scary moments before they’re gone.  And in the words of Steve, go give your babies a hug and a kiss, just because you can.

Posted in Coping, Perspectives | 1 Comment

Parenting lesson #37: The mouths of babes don’t always tell the full truth.


IMG_3209At Eliza’s Kindergarten back-to-school night, her teacher said, “We promise to believe only half of what we hear at school about you if you promise to only believe half of what you hear at home about us.”  I hope she was speaking on behalf of all the teachers.

In first grade, one of the things the children do is keep a scrapbook.  Eliza brought hers home yesterday.  There was one page about things that “crack up” the kids.  My daughter said she laughs when her classmate Braxton falls on the floor on purpose.  He’s hilarious!  She wrote that she laughs when her brother tells a joke.  How adorable!  She said her daddy makes her laugh when he tickles her.  That is so sweet.  And how do I make her laugh?  Apparently by burping at her.

IMG_3210Burping at her.

I barely ever burp.  I’m not only embarrassed now, but I’m embarrassed whenever I burp.  I never burp on purpose (I don’t know how to), so when it happens in front of the kids, I’ve burped, and giggled with them as I’ve said, “Excuse me!”  Sure, we’ve laughed about it, but my goodness, is that the first thing that comes to her mind when asked to describe how I make her laugh?

Am I that serious the rest of the time???

I decided I wanted an explanation today.  I wasn’t accusatory, but I was really hoping for some validation that I actually make my daughter laugh in other ways.

Me: “Eliza, so you wrote that I make you laugh when I burp at you.  When do I do that?”

Eliza: “Sometimes you burp at me, mom.”

Me: “Um, I never burp at you.  I’ve burped in front of you.”

Eliza: “Well it’s funny.”

Me: “Okay, but out of all the things I do with you, burping is the first thing that comes to mind when you think, ‘What does my mommy do that’s funny?’  Can you think of something else I do that’s funny?”

Eliza: “Farts?”

I don’t even know why I try.  Apparently I must be a super-serious mom who makes my child laugh only when I make bodily noises I cannot control.  Right?  Of course, I know this isn’t true.  It’s really easy to get sidetracked in parenting by something your child says or does that could easily hurt your feelings.  The truth is probably that the day she made that scrapbook page, I had burped on the way to school and it was fresh in her mind.  The truth is if she really thought about it, she could most likely think of some ways I make her laugh that are cute, and endearing, and not embarrassing.

We as parents have to remember to take these situations with a grain of salt and write them down so we can laugh at them for what they are – half-truths.  I can choose to allow myself to question my very core if I believe this is what she really thinks of me.  Or I can choose to take what she wrote and run it through the sieve of reality.

I think Ms. Kolker, the Kindergarten teacher, was onto something.  And I’m pretty sure Mrs. Woodside, her first grade teacher, knows the same.  At least I’m banking on my 50/50 odds here.

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Dealing with the first “F bomb”


Ohhhhhh fuuuuuuuuuudge.

Ohhhhhh fuuuuuuuuuudge.

The major milestones of growing up keep coming whether you’re ready for them or not.  But I wasn’t really expecting my six- and barely five-year-olds to speak the F bomb yet.  Mind you, I wouldn’t label myself as naive per se; I know my children are going to be some of the first to hear all sorts of dirty little words because our last name is Virgin.  But they are not ready to understand them.  So though the world eventually teaches them things we don’t want them to know and aren’t ready to explain, we don’t have to succumb to some unspecified, ethereal pressure to acquiesce to changing times and the notion that “kids just grow up faster these days.”  Instead, I had a response prepared.

The kids came in the door from school as usual and dumped their stuff everywhere.  Within seconds Eliza informed me that there was a big discussion in carpool about what the worst word was.  I said, “Okay, what is it?”  After several reassurances that she would not be in trouble, she said, clear as day, “Eff” (the word – the F-dash-dash-dash word).  I think I said, “Huh, okay” and walked away like it was no big deal.  This is step number 1 in dealing with this – don’t act like it’s a big deal.   Step #2 is returning to the discussion calmly and when you have time.  For me, that was a few minutes later.

Me: “Okay, sweetie, can you tell me more about what happened in the car?”

Her: “Well, Zach said the worst word is stupid.  And (our carpool buddy) said, ‘No it’s not, F-dash-dash-dash is.'”

Me: “Oh.  Okay.”

Her: “Is he right?”

Me: “Well, it is a very bad word, yes.  It is not nice.”

Her: “What does it mean?”

Me: “What did your friend say it means?”

Her: “Just like dumb, stupid, mean.  Is that what it means?”

Me: “No, that’s not what it means.”

Her: “Will you tell me what it means?”

Here is where the preparation came in.  A friend of mine told me she had read about how one father had his son fill their biggest suitcase full and then asked him to pick it up.  The boy could not, and his father explained to him that the EFF word was like that suitcase; that someday, he’d be able to handle it, but that for now, the word was just too heavy for him.  Without actually packing a suitcase, I went through this demonstration with Eliza.  She pondered this a moment, and then asked “Will you tell me when I’m 11?”  And I said, “Yes, I can tell you when you’re 11.”  Then, of course, she asked about when she’s 10, nine, and finally we settled on when she’s eight.  And that was it.

It has been several weeks since then, and she and Zach haven’t revisited it.  I should say that Zach could not have cared less about the word or the carpool conversation, which was great.  But the fact that Eliza let it go is pretty miraculous.

Of course, since then, Eliza for no reason at all blurted out the word “sex” and stared me straight in the eyes to see my reaction.  I met her gaze and firmly asked, “What did you say?”  And then she made up something I don’t remember.  And I said, “Huh, okay.”  And I dropped it.  But when I hear it again, because I know I will hear it again, I will revisit the suitcase example and explain that she can count on being strong enough to handle that word when she’s eight as well.  I just hope I can hold off on explaining Virgin to them until then, too, because I don’t really want to communicate to our children that their last name is a “bad word.”  But if I explain Virgin, well, I kind of have to explain sex.  And probably the mother of all words as well.

Does anyone have another trick besides the suitcase one?  I might need it.

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Parenting lesson #11: There will always be poop to clean up.


Just ... ugh.

Just … ugh.

When you have little children, it’s easy to daydream about being done with diapers and blow-outs and leaks and toilet training.  But the truth is that even when you’re out of this phase, there will still be poop to clean up.

Tuesday we had a snow day.  Now, our Christmas break began December 19th, and that night Zach and Greg started flu symptoms.  Eliza succumbed the following Monday.  On Christmas, I still had three pretty flat-out family members and a rambunctious, healthy toddler.  Then after another week of having three kids at home, I sent them off to school Monday and took a nice, long, deep breath.  Thus, to have a snow day one day after school began again seemed so … unfair.  As the snow piled up outside, three other people in this family who use toilets (read: not me) also managed to “pile up” some things.  And they clogged two of our loos.

I was sitting on the couch trying to appreciate being “all here,” when I heard Zach whine talking to himself in the bathroom.  “I can’t use three pieces of toilet paper.  It’s not enough and now mommy’s going to be so mad with me.  I used too much toilet paper but I’m so sorry about it because I used more than three pieces.”  I waited for him to emerge.  And he gave me the saddest look and apologized for using too much toilet paper.  I told him it was alright and ignored the bathroom because I wasn’t ready to deal with whatever had happened yet.  Several hours later I had forgotten about it until I went in the bathroom and saw a toilet filled with half a roll of soaked tissue covering a brown mess that looked more like a bird’s nest than a branch.  It was a scene that on this snow day, was all too familiar.  And unfortunately for Zach, one I had witnessed one too many times (and the second stoppage of the day).

Me: “Zach, come in the bathroom.  I didn’t realize this is what you did with the toilet paper.  This is way too much toilet paper.  We’ve talked about this before.  You’re going to clean it up.”

Zach: “I’m sorry mommy.”

Me: “I’m going to go get the trash can.  You have to pull all the toilet paper out until there’s not too much to flush.”

Zach (in disbelief): “WITH MY HANDS!?!?”

Me: “Yes, because that’s what I would have to do and maybe if you do it this time, you’ll remember this the next time you consider using more than three squares of toilet paper for each wipe.”

Can you see how much toilet paper is in the trash and how much is STILL in the toilet?

Can you see how much toilet paper is in the trash and how much is STILL in the toilet?

It’s been three days since the snow day toilet debacle, and so far, Zach has amazingly had zero issues in the bathroom.  We will see if it sticks.  But even if it does, I still won’t be done dealing with poop issues.  Even once Ethan is out of diapers, toilet trained, and past using too much toilet paper, there will still be gross messes.  They will come in the form of school issues and bullying and crushed dreams and dying friendships and break-ups and a hundred other things I can’t anticipate and don’t want to.  So pull up your sleeves, grab your rubber gloves, and get ready to dig in.  Because the poop of life takes many forms, and once you have kids, helping them deal with it never ends.

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