Category Archives: motherhood

Bubble Boys

The other day, my 3 year old was invited to watch a video with some other little ones while the grown-ups talked. My husband and I usually let him watch TV or play ipod learning apps pretty regularly- almost every day- but his exposure to different shows has been pretty limited up to this point. He’s watched things like: Baby Einstein, Sid the Science Kid, Mary Poppins and the most PG-ish of the bunch, Cars.  We don’t watch adult shows when he is around or have the TV on as background noise. We feel like we want to protect him from the media saturation that can happen if we don’t keep a close eye on when screens are on and what he’s viewing.

On this day, he had been watching the selected movie with the other kids for about a half an hour before coming to find me to let me know he didn’t want to watch anymore.

His reason? The movie was “too scary.”

What they were watching?  “Winnie the Pooh.”

This made me so, so happy.  Some parents might worry that this was an indicator that their child is too sensitive.  For me, preserving his sensitivity is a good thing.  I want him to have a lengthy, sparkling childhood where he sees examples of kindness, cooperation, and curiosity in the characters he observes.

Consequently, I can be extremely protective of what he’s exposed to.  This will be the same for my 10 month old, too.  My bubble boys.  Like every parent, I try to protect them from concepts they don’t need to know about.

I used to have a book called The Hidden Messages in Water, that described how the crystallization of frozen water can be affected by the presence of either positive or negative words.  Words like harmony, peace, and love created symmetry, radiance, and beauty.  Words like hate and war had the opposite effect. It’s kind of a cool concept and the pictures of the water crystals from this book really stuck with me.

So when I think about what I want my boys exposed to, it’s the words that created symmetrical, radiant crystals- those that contribute to a harmonious inner life and don’t bring up questions they have no need to answer yet.

Here are some words I don’t want them to even have in their airspace until absolutely necessary.

hate, war, guns, fight, ugly, combat, war, poor, horror, battle, terror, first place, last place, loser, winner, bad, extinction,

Ok, the list goes on and on. As of right now, he lives in a world where people are kind to each other, take care of each other, are gentle, mindful, musical, and fun. I hope that we can keep the media he’s exposed to be reflective of this gentle world for as long as we can.  Hopefully he’ll learn that TV and movies aren’t just about entertainment, but also about learning and really great stories. They’re such a powerful tools…I hope we can teach him how to use them wisely.

 

 

 

It’s sooooo good.

This is dazzling yellowy-orange glorious.  I’m sitting in a coffee shop (no, it’s not Starbucks- but they’re still my boo) and writing on my laptop.  I am in a squishy green chair, drinking a latte that is not on a table behind me, or just out of reach hiding on some high surface above the reach of little groping hands. It’s here- right next to me.

Photo on 7-31-13 at 11.21 AM

It’s still hot as I’m drinking it because I have not been interrupted from drinking it. I am drinking my coffee uninterrupted and alone. When I set down my coffee next to me on a table, I have both hands free to type so I can correct typos if I choose. I can read what I’ve written over and over if I choose.  I have the time for it. My legs are crossed and my laptop is resting on my lap- it is my lap’s only occupant.

I am writing this short post as a love letter to the heavens that are available on an every day basis in this life. I’m in one of them, courtesy of my babysitter. Because were it not for her, I would not be here alone with my coffee and laptop, gazing out the window every so often as I write. Just gazing and thinking my thoughts. I don’t have to speak at all. I can be silent, unentertaining, internal.  But if I were to speak, I wouldn’t have to edit out swearing, sarcasm, adult themes, pettiness, or unwarranted anger or frustration.

It used to be my favorite thing was to go to coffeeshops or restaurants by myself and write, read or just listen to people’s conversations.  It was heaven to me.  Now I have multiple heavens, one of which is this peaceful, gazy, quiet bliss.  Another is the one that awaits me when I return home. That one is the heaven of giggling little people, scurrying around at full speeds, exploring and inventing their world.  Of my family’s blissful chaos.  I. Am. So. Blessed.

Starbucks, I love you.

But I feel sort of guilty about it.

Why should I feel guilty for loving Starbucks? It’s hard not to love them. They are consistent in service and quality. I never feel uncomfortable in their atmosphere.  They promote unknown musicians.  They have drive-thrus.  Their cups don’t leak. And they make delicious drinks.

Cup of Coffee

My need for deliciousness has amplified since I’ve become a stay-at-home mom.  To survive and thrive, I need quick and easy ways to feel like I am on a mini-vacation.  I don’t have the luxury of getting a mediocre mocha with sad whipped cream and just shrugging my shoulders saying, “maybe next time they’ll get it right.”  I don’t want to be disappointed with my vanilla latte because it isn’t strong enough or has too much syrup or is made differently depending on whether Sally with the nose ring made it on Monday or cheerful Billy made it on Tuesday.  And I really don’t want a cheap-ass lid that causes coffee to leak out the seam and all over my hand every time I take a sip.

I need to be able to count on my coffee.  Depend on it.  My love for Starbucks coffee drinks is at least 80% rooted in emotional dependency.  Drinking a perfectly made beverage is a little mini-therapy session, frankly.   Starbucks is the stability I wish I had in my twenties- it is the consistency I sometimes lack.  Their drinks are like a hug from deliciousness- an indulgent expense that exists for purely selfish reasons- like because it tastes so damn good.

My day is filled with doing things for others.  But my decaf Americano with extra cream and two sugars?  That is just for me.  That is what Starbucks does for me.  It says: “You can depend on me, Krissy.  I will always taste satisfyingly delicious. You deserve it.”  And it never, ever lets me down.  The only variations are in the amount of whipped cream in my decaf grande mocha extra whip.  I can live with that.

However, I also love supporting local businesses.  But not at the expense of an incredibly delicious beverage, which is sometimes the case when I frequent independently owned coffee shops.

I can think of two examples off the top of my head – one place near where I used to live that had pretty excellent baked goods, but where the owners were rude.  And inconsistent. I would stop there on my way to work, in a rush, and they were almost always out of decaf coffee.  “It’ll just take about 8 minutes to brew,” they would say.  Unfortunately, when you wake up late as I tended to do, I don’t have 8 minutes to wait.  What kind of coffee shop is out of coffee at 7:30 in the morning?

And the more recent example is heartbreaking- it’s a 5 minute walk away and they, too, make pretty decent baked goods.  But the owners have a sterile, cold vibe even though the words coming out of their mouth are standard, welcoming cafe talk.  I try to imagine what it is exactly that feels off about them: Were they recently released from prison for some heinous crime?  Are they spies? Is there an unwilling grandmother being held hostage in the basement?  Do they have unwashed hands?  I will probably never know, but something feels unsettling about the place.  At times they have been downright rude and then caught themselves in it and tried to shine it away with a smile.  Not so fast, suckers! I’m onto you!  Put your hands where I can see them.

In a town like Madison where there are 12 Starbucks (including the ones in Targets), an independent cafe has to make a pretty darn good coffee drink to lure me away from the ridiculous convenience of Starbucks.  Even with a welcoming, cheery atmosphere if your coffee drinks aren’t all that (yes, I said all that), then I will just head to the Starbucks down the street instead.  I love them.  And if consistent, delicious drinks are any measure of love at all, then they love me back.

I yelled at my kid today.

My 3 year old is brilliant, stubborn, strong-willed, highly active, and fiercely independent.  Every day when his “listening ears” aren’t on, he does something unsafe, or he blatantly disobeys me, I work hard internally to censor myself and calm my voice before it leaves my body.  I am usually quite good at monitoring what I say so that I appear levelheaded and peaceful.  I want a peaceful house.  But inside, after a long day of self-censorship, I am worn down.  Sometimes I wonder about the discrepancy between the impulsive frustration I feel and the calm but firm words that come out of my mouth.  Am I growing an ulcer or something with all the frustration that goes unexpressed?  The things I say out loud vs the things I say in my mind often go something like this:

Out loud: Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?  Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?  Would you like to put your shoes on or would you like me to do it?
In my mind: Get over here and sit the fuck down and put on your fucking shoes!!

Out loud: If you throw the toy, then the toy goes away. If you throw the toy, then the toy goes away.
In my mind: I am so sick of telling you not to throw your fucking toys!

Out loud: Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie. Eat your food, sweetie.
In my mind: What the hell?!! Sit still and EAT!! Eat your fucking food!

Throughout the day, I make it a point to not raise my voice to him because it doesn’t do anything except frustrate me and make me feel guilty.  His behavior usually doesn’t change whether I raise my voice or not if he’s doing something naughty.  And, though it doesn’t make him cry or seem sad, I think it makes him a little more…sensitive.  And curious. He’s way tougher than I am.  If someone were yelling at me and ordering me around, I would be furious and definitely crying. When he’s having a day when his “listening ears” aren’t on, he seems unaffected by my frustration.

Today was the first day in 3 years that I lost my self control and not only raised my voice, but was really commanding him around.  He had been pushing me all day.  It’s starting to wear on me- this not wanting to do anything I suggest and not wanting to follow directions.

Me (holding 2 crayons): “Would you like the red crayon or the green?”
Him: “Black.”

Me: “I want you to pick up your toy before we leave.”
Him: “No, I don’t want to.”

Me; “Can you please help me out by handing me that napkin right next to you?”
Him: Silence.
Me: “Can you hand me that napkin, please?”
Him: Silence.
Me: “BRADEN! Can you hand me that napkin?”
Him: “No.”

It doesn’t sound so bad, except it is- when everything becomes an argument, a power struggle, or so repetitive that I want to bite something.

So today I had low patience going into the day and it wore off as the day went on.  By late afternoon I was mentally exhausted. I let him splash around in some puddles outside in the rain, even though it was 50 degrees- I was desperate.  I showed him the boundaries I wanted him to stay in so that he wasn’t running into the main area of the street.  When, after 5 minutes of splashing, he ran beyond the boundaries, I freaked.  (As I usually do when his safety is a concern.)

These were the words I said:

“Get over here NOW!”

“What are you DOING? I said get in the HOUSE!”

“I will count to 3 and if you are not in the house by 3…”  (then, what exactly?  I never actually finished this sentence)

Once I started using this awful commanding voice, I couldn’t seem to stop because it didn’t actually get him to do what I was asking him to do and it didn’t get him moving any faster.  I kept thinking, “surely he will respond to this much anger in my voice” and I got more and more serious and loud.  But it didn’t make him obey me.  He still dawdled. He still tested and pushed me.  When I put him in a time out he just got up and walked toward me. (Short of restraining him in a car seat, I’m out of ideas for time outs.) I felt horrible and weak.  Like not only could I not control my kid’s behavior, but I was too weak to control my own behavior.

We talked about it afterward and I apologized for raising my voice and being so stressed out.  We hugged.  I told him I loved him even when his listening ears aren’t on. And that I love him even when I am really stressed out.  He then continued to misbehave for the rest of the day.

Now, of course, I fell guilty.  I hope what he takes away from the day and remembers in his little spirit is that his mom fessed up when she acted less than stellar.  That people are human and they aren’t perfect.  And that when we don’t treat our loved ones in a way we feel really good about, it’s important to say sorry and forgive ourselves and each other.

Top Three Things My Three Year Old Prefers to Do Without Wearing Clothing

3. Go potty.  His preference is to remove all clothing, if possible, but most importantly shoes, socks, pants, and undies.  It doesn’t matter if we are at home or in a public bathroom at say, Target, where one typically likes to hurry things along to get out as soon as possible.  His attitude is usually, “What’s the rush, Mom?  Why not enjoy this a little?  Let’s take off our shoes and socks.”  He gives no explanation when asked why he prefers naked potty time. Perhaps he feels more able to heed the call of nature while in his natural state.   At home he also prefers to have the lights off with the green night light on and the door halfway open for some privacy.  I can only hope that such specific requirements do not stay with him beyond the toddler years.  Dorm living would be tough.

 

2. Run around.  Usually this occurs immediately after bath time.  After I dry him off, he giggles and asks, “Can I run around?”  by which he means, Can I run back and forth across the room naked over and over and yell “Wheeeeeee!  Haha!”  It is very, very difficult for me to say no to him running around naked.  I think our society might be just a little bit better if there were more running around naked time at home.  People would feel just a bit more free.  A little happier.  I watch him run around, do somersaults and downward dog without a  single self-conscious moment.  He is completely and totally in his body.  I have alot to learn from this little master.

 

1. Eat.  This is a puzzler.  He actually seems to eat more without pants on.  At one point, my husband and I had not re-dressed him yet after a naked potty time and we noticed him in his room, squatting next to a plate of snacks he had taken in there earlier.  He was using his hands to eat rather than utensils ala Quest for Fire and nibbling away ferociously, kind of like a wild chimp.  Given that we usually have a hard time getting him to sit and eat anything, we were thrilled he was eating, clothes or not.  For such an active guy and picky eater, if he wants to recreate a scene from his feral ancestors, scurrying about foraging for food, that’s fine with us.  While some parents might look at their naked little squatter with concern about social graces, my husband and I looked at each other and felt relieved.  Together we had the same thought: We can place nuts and crackers strategically around the house.  At least he’s eating.

 

 

If you don’t put that down, I will hold my breath until I’m blue

Illogical consequences are the enemy of modern parenting.  In order for kids to make sense of why they are receiving a consequence, it should be related somehow to their undesirable behavior.  Like this: “If you throw the blue truck, the blue truck is banished to the closet for the rest of the day.”  Consequences should not be randomly linked (“If you throw the blue truck, you will not get to watch Dora”) or fueled by frustration and anger  (“If you throw the blue truck, I will throw it in the fireplace and make you watch it burn.”)  My problem with this system is that often the most frustrating misbehaviors do not have rational consequences.  Here is a list I compiled of such behaviors that took place in our household in the last 24 hours:

Bouncing on the bed
Unrolling the toilet paper roll
Climbing into the the refrigerator to try and reach yogurt
Throwing noodles on the floor
Laying down on the floor, limp, when it was time to walk to our car
Laying down on the floor, limp,  when it was time to get dressed
Laying down on the floor, limp,  when it was time to eat
Running away from me in a public place
Laughing at me and continuing to run when I say “STOP NOW” in my sternest mommy voice
Banging a brush repeatedly against the cabinet door
Sitting at the forbidden computer and starting to type on the keyboard
Trying to unlock the car door with his foot while in his car seat
Unlatching his car seat buckle
Throwing his cheddar bunnies on the floor of the car
Torrential splashing in the bath

What is the logical consequence of throwing noodles on the floor?  Not letting him eat them and excusing him from dinner?  He didn’t want to eat anyway!  That’s not a consequence, that’s what he wants!  Or what about a logical consequence for unlatching his car seat buckle?  Stopping the car and being Stern Mommy seems logical but then, what if it’s a trip I wanted to make that he could care less about?  Like to Starbucks or something?  He would love it if I stopped the car and headed back home- that’s where all his trucks live.

What is so stressful about these behaviors is that I’m so Nice and I Follow the Rules of being a good parent.  I give clear expectations, set great boundaries, and offer clear consequences for undesirable behavior.  I usually do not get emotionally invested in his naughty-ness, but remain calm in guiding him toward appropriate behavior.  What frustrates me the most about times like this when he’s acting out is that:

1. I feel helpless to help him navigate his emotions.
2. I feel like a failure as any kind of guide in his life.
3. I feel angry that these time-tested parenting strategies don’t seem to work for him or me (Like time-outs, for instance, are a joke.  He literally laughs at them.)
4. I am disappointed that I am not being rewarded for my undying love, strict obedience of the Rules, and consistency.  I am used to Following the Rules and being rewarded for it.
5. I feel scared and inadequate as a parent when I can’t help him control inappropriate behaviors.

Is my kid smarter than me?  Is there a secret key to unlocking daily, consistent desirable behavior that I am missing?  I admit that I don’t like classifying children’s behavior into “good” and “bad” categories.  For me, the behavior I’m trying to correct usually falls into these two categories: “unsafe” and/or “pain in the ass.”

Is it really earth-shattering that our toilet paper sits in a pile on the floor?  In the grand scheme of the things, no.  Gross, perhaps, if we plan to actually use it.  Wasteful if we don’t.  My stress comes from knowing he has directly ignored a clear instruction.  It’s like I expect him to be a little soldier.  He’s not.  He’s not even 3 years old.  I can literally not believe how stressed out I feel at these little things that happen all day long.   But then I think, my stress isn’t real stress.  We have a roof over our head, food on the table, good people in our lives.  These parenting stresses are the stresses of a luxury American lifestyle.  Deep breathing, a glass of wine and some yoga poses usually cure them.  But sure enough, when they happen again, I feel like a failure again.

I want him to listen and do what I say without fighting me.  That’s basically what the mom in me wants.  And when dealing with a 2 or 3 year old it seems that yes, that is too much to ask.  And though as a mom I want his happy obedience, as a human being I want him to think creatively and disobey authority a little.  Frankly I think a little disobedience is an asset in our society.  Anarchy!  Not quite, but sort of.  Part of me wants to let him do whatever he wants as long as he is safe.  Bounce the crap out of your bed!  Let me get you another toilet paper roll!  Yeah, lay on the ground when it’s time to go to preschool- I didn’t want to drive you there anyways!  Is it the rebel in me that he is reflecting back to me?  Nope, probably more likely to be a developmental normalcy of an almost 3 year old.   I hope.

Motherhood & longing…

I was listening to a Pandora station yesterday that had heartfelt female songwriters featured (think Brandi Carlisle, Annie Lennox, etc.).  Though I typically go for funk, blues, bluegrass or Grateful Dead-esque tunes on Pandora, I was really moved by these ladies and had forgotten how soulful music can change your inner landscape.  Duh, it’s often been the kind of music I write, you’d think I’d remember this truth.  But it’s usually not the music I choose to listen to, mostly because I like to tap my toe and groove a little when I’ve got music on.  In the middle of an Eva Cassidy song, I suddenly felt myself on the verge of tears.  The song had reached a melodic hand right into my diaphragm and given a gentle tug.

 

Oooohhhh, I thought, awash with emotion.  So that is where grief from my father’s death is living.  That is where my overwhelm at not having enough time alone sits unnoticed.   That is where my longing to write songs lives.  Somehow Eva Cassidy found it-right there.  And a big longing washed over me.  I miss making music.  Muuuuuuuusic.  Grown-up, philosophical, moves you to the bone music.

 

One of the great sacrifices of becoming a mother has been the interruption of the flow of my creative life.  It just hasn’t been the same in the two years since I’ve had my son.   Before having a baby, I wrote music alone.  Usually staring out a window at nature, with a glass of wine on the coffee table, a guitar in my hands, and a notebook and voice recorder next to me on the floor.  With a toddler, three parts of that equation must disappear.  Voice recorder & notebook- toys too fun for him to leave alone.  Guitar- ditto.  But most importantly, a fourth and essential part of the equation- the alone part, has almost entirely disappeared.  Is the sacrifice worth it?  Is having a child worth not having time to write & play songs?  Yes, but the longing to have both is not something I can let go of.   Having my son is worth more than anything.  But walking around with a sorrow at not actively and regularly making music is…well, it feels like a big hole to fill, not having that creative outlet.  No matter how much I love my son and am thrilled with him and who I’ve become because he exists, I still have that hole inside that makes me feel a little like swiss cheese.  Maybe the longing to make music is part of what defines this part of my life.  Is that part of motherhood?  Longing to do the things you don’t have time to do?

 

I remember seeing an interview with Annie Lennox once and she was saying how important it was for her to maintain her own vision as an artist when in the recording studio.  Often, a producer will come in with their own ideas and try to steer a musician one way or another to create their own vision of what the artist’s music should sound like.  Annie’s take was that such a relationship was tantamount to someone standing behind a master painter saying, “I think you should add more blue over there in the corner. And red sparkles up there by the bird.”  She would not have people messing with her medium.  Music and its production was her art to shape and form and she would only work with producers who would help her vision come to life, not morph it into something that was not hers.  I love that.

 

It’s a nice philosophy to try and strive toward in life- to only have people, activities and interests that help shape and form your vision into reality.   Part of my struggle has been to quiet that intrusive producer within me saying who is saying, “You must spend all waking time with your son.  You must be attentive at all times and build a rich and colorful life for him in every way.  You must set your own needs aside to be with him.”  When the artist in me is struggling for breath and, quite honestly, the vision for my life includes a rich and colorful life for me, not just for him.  A simple necessity of that vision is alone time- time to hear my own rhythm, time for music.   The vision is pure.  Time alone for creative outlet?  Children?  I want both.