The Dads Who Do

I’d like to give a shout-out to the dad in Safeway at 8:45 Saturday morning walking straight to the donuts with two kids following behind like baby ducklings. They were all in pajamas, and while they had shoes on their feet, no hair had been brushed and you could still see the sleep crusted in their eyes.

I hoped that there was a mama at home who was getting a little break. Maybe she had gotten the chance to sleep in that morning. Maybe she would wake up to a steaming cup of coffee and one of those donuts the kids were carrying in their clear plastic bags as they all shuffled towards the check-out line. Whether they were gone for twenty minutes or an hour, I knew she’d relish that time.

This one is for the dads who do.

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Dads, like my husband, who volunteer to referee the Saturday soccer games even though he himself was never a soccer player. Dads who chaperone field trips, fill up flat bike tires, and don a gigantic hair bow at the JoJo Siwa themed birthday party. Dads who watch The Little Princess on a Friday night and shock their daughters when he cries at the ending. Dads who learn how to braid hair, help with math homework, and don’t complain when they spend an entire afternoon of their vacation at The American Girl Doll store.

You may not think we always see you, but we do.

We see you playing a game of keep away with a football on the living room rug while we read our book. We see you having sword fights with foam noodles on the front lawn while we decorate the house for Halloween. We see you packing school lunches and folding the laundry, and we couldn’t love you more if we tried.

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For all the times you remembered to hide the tooth fairy money or to move the elf on the shelf, saving us from self-inflicted mom-shame, we owe you more than just a sheepish grin and a whew. For all the times you thought to snap the picture–a picture that shows us really being a mother, in all its strength and tenderness. For all the times you told the children, “your mother is right.”  You might shrug it off as no big deal, but to us, it means the world.

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Those nights when we end up crashing before the kids’ bedtime and you keep them quiet so that we can get some rest. Those nights when we head out for drinks with our girlfriends and you give us a kiss as we leave, telling us to have fun. Those nights when you clean up the kitchen after supper and suggest we go take a hot bath.

For all the foot rubs and back rubs. For all the nights you stopped at the store to pick up a bottle of wine on your way home from work. For all the times you watched This is Us despite still not knowing what happened to Jack…

This mom thing is hard. This full-time working mom thing is even harder. Adulting day-in and day-out while simultaneously keeping small humans alive is the toughest work we will ever do. The best gift you gave was the acknowledgment of that fact by giving us a break. Whether it be a time-out or a time to ourselves, whether it be entertaining the children so we can get a chore done or taking over a chore we would normally do ourselves, you strengthen our super powers so that we can go back to being the super-moms our children believe us to be.

For all the dads who do, we thank you. We wouldn’t want to do this without you.

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The Mom Bubble

A marvelous idea for an invention came to me the other morning as I attempted to meditate.

The moment I settled onto my cushion and closed my eyes, my cat sauntered over to paw at my lap. In case you’ve not had the pleasure of this experience, it’s rather difficult to focus on your breath when your inner thigh is being kneaded like the soft dough it resembles. No matter how many times I shooed him away, he returned purring louder than before with those tenacious claws. Perhaps this was the real test. To reach Zen, I must maintain my calm whilst swatting at the world’s most persistent pet.

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Just when I had finally managed to rid myself of the feline, my five-year-old wandered out of her bedroom and plopped herself down on top of me. First startled, then annoyed, I tried to shoo her away too, but she threw her body on the rug and cried.

And cried.

And cried.

It was in that very moment that the concept for The Mom Bubble was born. The Mom Bubble would not only come in handy during meditation though. There are a variety of uses that make The Mom Bubble a must-have for every mother.

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Would you like to be able to have a phone conversation where you only communicate with the person you called? Then The Mom Bubble is for you. You’ll no longer hear, “I’ll let you go. It sounds like you’re busy,” from the person on the other end.

Why, just the other day I was on the phone with my cousin when she asked, “Did you just go poopie?” I was about to answer when I realized she wasn’t asking me. Perhaps the sing-song of her voice should have tipped me off, but The Mom Bubble can help avoid embarrassing situations like these.

As a mother, it’s inevitable that you’ll get a farewell leg-hug from your toddler when you’re headed out the door in a pair of slacks fresh from the cleaners. If you’re lucky, you’ll notice the snail trails your child left smeared across your thigh before you exit the house. With The Mom Bubble, gone are those days of being used as a human Kleenex. Now you can go out in public without accessorizing in dried boogers.

Projectile vomit? No problem! Watch those chunks slide down the outside of The Mom Bubble while you stay safely inside. As an added bonus, the putrid odor that once sent you retching towards the toilet is guaranteed not to enter your sphere.

Speaking of odors: The other night while watching TV, my youngest said she wanted to sit on my lap for a second.

For a second? But you’re right next to me.”

Then it dawned on me. Her intention was to fart on me. As if sitting right next to me and breaking wind was not enough, she wanted to actually place her buttocks directly on me to let one rip. It’s no coincidence that Pink Eye outbreaks are at all-time high in my household, but The Mom Bubble will keep you out of harm’s way.

Not only would The Mom Bubble protect you from kid farts, but dog farts too. Imagine watching your family gasp and cough while you enjoy the sweet-smelling air of The Mom Bubble. 

Do you have a little one who likes to climb in your bed at night? Sleep in The Mom Bubble and you’ll never have to cling to the edge of the mattress like you do your sanity. Those elbows, feet, and knees will find another body to disturb while you get the rest you deserve.

Lack of personal space got you down? Just because your offspring once inhabited your womb, does not earn them the right to hang from your body like baby orangutans. The Mom Bubble gives you the ability to say “I love you, but please don’t touch me” without actually saying it.

Now I know you’re probably thinking that what you really want is a little peace and quiet. Equipped with noise-cancelling technology, The Mom Bubble will make it so that you won’t have to listen to another ear-shattering temper tantrum ever again.

With The Mom Bubble, you’ll quickly realize that letting them cry it out is a great parenting strategy when you don’t have to hear it. And your darling child will likewise cease having quite as many fits once they find that when you’re inside The Mom Bubble, you’ll never cave to their 87th request for Fun-Dip at 6:30 A.M.

Equally important is the autonomy your children will develop when they can no longer ask you to pass them their cup of water that is literally sitting RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. Imagine the peace of mind that will come from knowing that The Mom Bubble is as much of an investment for them as it is for you.

The Mom Bubble: The best thing to happen to motherhood since the epidural. Coming soon to a Target near you. Look for it near the wine aisle.

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The Universe is Speaking

I am 39 and The Universe is speaking to me. Or maybe, I am 39 and I have finally started to listen. Either way, there are signs all around me as of late; I am paying attention to them and they are leading me places I otherwise may not have travelled.

At 39, I have found my authenticity. I make time for myself in ways I never would before. I am learning to say no to others and learning to say yes to me.

Last winter I took a class in meditation simply because I wanted to. The email that informed me of the course came from the city’s recreation department, but The Universe hit send. Establishing a meditation practice has not been easy, but it’s been beyond valuable. Summer mornings, I roll out an old yoga mat and sit on my deck; I close my eyes, pop in my earbuds, and listen to guided meditations that remind me to breathe. I tell my children not to disturb me unless the house is on fire and for the most part, they don’t. I hear the chirping of birds in my back yard as I inhale and exhale to the voice of someone I’ll likely never meet.

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The more I meditate, the less I want to drink, and the less I drink, the healthier I feel. I can tolerate more and am better equipped at dealing with stress, which ironically is why I drank in the first place. I stopped coming home at the end of a long work day and pouring a glass of wine; I poured, instead, a cup of tea. For this unexpected gift, I have The Universe to thank.

When a friend of mine spoke of her newfound love for reflexology, I thought, I’d like to try that, so I did. Though the reflexologist kept telling me how healthy I was, I learned that it wasn’t reflexology that I needed–I needed to hear other things she had to say. The Universe had sent me there to receive those messages.

We talked about homeopathy and our casual banter led to her mentioning Arnica, a remedy used for healing. For my father, being scheduled for double knee replacements only a few weeks later, this message from The Universe was perfectly timed. I immediately bought and shipped him the small blue vial along with the instructions for him to begin taking it three days prior to his procedure. In the coming weeks, I felt more at ease about his going under the knife knowing that The Universe was looking out for him in ways I personally could not.

The reflexologist and I also spoke about our love of TedTalks. One of her favorites was by Brené Brown. Currently, she was reading one of her books on vulnerability but she mentioned another called The Gifts of Imperfection which sounded vaguely familiar.

It wasn’t until a few days later when I was searching for something that I pulled out that very book from my nightstand. A gift from my friend who, much like my mom, sends me links to articles and buys me books that she thinks I will benefit from; it had sat within arm’s reach of my bed untouched for several years. I blew off the dust and began reading. The Universe had spoken. (My friend would probably have you note that she had also spoken about three years prior, but I wasn’t listening then…nor was she “The Universe.”)

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It was within the pages of this book that I learned about shame. At 39, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t fully understand what shame was or how it operated. Oh I struggled with guilt, but shame was not something I would have admitted to. I was prone to claiming no shame to my game…but there was, and now that The Universe pointed it out to me, it was abundant.

When I finished the book, I checked out Brené Brown on Ted where she said that, “for women, shame is do it all, do it perfectly, and never let them see you sweat.”

For so many years I have been a self-proclaimed perfectionist, but do I really want to be the woman who runs the vacuum before the babysitter arrives? Those gourmet sandwiches that I packed for the beach were delicious, but each time my friend suggested we menu plan for an outing, I felt my anxiety rise. All I needed was a PB&J and a juicy plum from the cooler but there was this pressure I felt to say yes, to do more, to be better.

Brown says, “Shame for women is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we are supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket.”

When I became a mother, my instinct was to put the needs of my children before my own, but I clearly forgot I had needs altogether. As women, we nurture and we please to the extent of our own detriment.

In a Dear Sugar podcast, The Power of No, the Sugars suggest only saying yes to those things that feel good, that light a spark within you. People shouldn’t feel shame or apologize for having their own needs. Later, when they interview Oprah Winfrey, she shares her own journey with learning to say no.

“I used to be spread so thin, there was no room in my life for me. There was No Room in My Life for Me.”

As a wife and a mother and a teacher, I felt like Oprah. It has only been in the past few years that I have started to make time for me—time at the gym, time to write, or simply extra time by allowing myself to serve chicken nuggets for dinner. Thanks to The Universe, I’m making room with shameless abandon because I want to raise children without shame and guilt, and I cannot do so without first modeling what that looks like.

I’m still practicing the art of no. As it turns out, the easiest person to deny is yourself. Yet as I learned with meditation, there are twenty-four hours in each day; you are worth ten-minutes.

In the preface of her book, Brené Brown writes, “People may call what happens in midlife ‘a crisis,’ but it’s not. It’s an unraveling… a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.” While I cringe to think that I have hit the mid-point of my life, I am certainly unraveling. After being wound tight for so very long, there is freedom in that.

She then adds, “The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.”

I am 39 and The Universe is speaking to me. It hasn’t suggested I grow out my hair or buy a Harley, yet the other day, after I told my friend about my upcoming Reiki appointment, she jokingly questioned: Who are you? Rhetorical or not, I responded: This. This is who I am. And I felt confident in that answer in ways I never had before.

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I Used to Have Patience…And Then I Had Kids

Tell anyone who is not a teacher that you are, and they assume patience is one of your virtues. They’re not entirely wrong either. Maintaining composure in my classroom is easy, even when I’m asked the same questions a half dozen times in a row: How many paragraphs does this have to be? When is this due? Do we have to finish this for homework? Even if I have repeated myself ad nauseam, even if the answer is also posted on the whiteboard directly behind me (It is), and even if the reason I am being asked to echo myself again and again is due to the asker having been playing with a fidget spinner or checking their Snapchat, I never lose my cool.

I’d love to pretend I possess the same tolerance with my own children; unfortunately, my patience dwindles considerably when I change hats. Some days, it’s gone before 7:00 A.M.

Case in Point: One morning my youngest was brushing her hair when I asked if she’d like me to style it. She nodded. I proceeded to pull the top half up in a ponytail before securing the rest of the hair into a low bun. Minutes later, she’s sobbing.

“I wanted a bun!”

“You have a bun. Look, there’s a bun.”

“But I didn’t want that bun. I wanted a different bun!”

“Did you ask me for a bun?”

“No, but I wanted a bun!”

“YOU HAVE A BUN!”

Mornings can be tough though, so I try to forgive my children for their meltdowns, and I hope they forgive me mine. If patience has a kryptonite, it is fatigue. Some days, they are more tired than others. Some days, I’m more tired. But even on the most frustrating of mornings, I’m able to brush those feelings off when I step inside my classroom, leaving me to ponder why I can handle everyone’s children but my own.

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Her granola bar broke when she opened it.

Unflappable in the face of my students’ questions, my endurance is tested by the inane inquiries my little one tosses my direction.

“Mom, what does TNT stand for?”

“What?”

“TNT…What does TNT stand for?”

“Dynamite.”

“What’s that?”

“Explosives…like firecrackers.”

“So they are crackers that are hot?”

“No.”

“Mom? When are we going to buy popsicles?”

“I don’t know.”

“Mom?”

“What?”

“I think I want to be a bird so when people walk by I can poop on their heads. But not your head because you’ve already been pooped on. Right Mom?…Mom?…MOM?!?”

“WHAT!?!”

“When are we going to see the fireworks again?”

“I don’t know. Probably the fourth of July.”

“When is that?”

“THE FOURTH OF JULY.”

“Yeah, but what day is that?”

These are the moments when I know that I will be pouring myself a glass a wine with dinner to go with the glass of wine I poured myself before dinner.

Sometimes my inability to be a more patient parent leaves me feeling less-than. I convince myself that other moms are holding hands with their children, singing Kumbaya, and answering all their questions with a smile. But then I’m sitting at gymnastics when another mom snaps at her son after his fourth or fifth “mom” and I am reassured. She sounded just like me.

Like me, she just wanted these forty-five minutes to scroll through social media, to zone out, or to read a book without the constant pestering. Thank you, Real Mom of Gymnastics. We should be friends.

When parenting—especially parenting young children—patience can melt faster than a soft-serve ice cream cone at the beach. It’s perfectly normal to feel like there isn’t enough oxygen in this ecosystem for all the deep breaths you’ll need and it’s not wrong to want to give yourself a time out.

I once received text messages from a mom-friend who was hiding in her closet from her children and not because they were playing an awesome round of Hide-and-Go-Seek. I had to remind her that she wasn’t a terrible mother; she was wise to go in there (and wiser still to have brought an adult beverage with her). After all, what mom hasn’t gone to the bathroom and locked the door under the guise of needing to poo if only to get a five-minute reprieve? Sometimes the overstimulation of being poked and prodded and needed and questioned is too much. Nerves get exposed and every whine or cry feels like a root canal minus the Novocaine. If hiding in the closet means you regain your composure without losing it on your kids, more power to you.

After a long week, even Family Game Night requires me to tap into my depleted patience reserves. A few hands of Uno feels more like Chinese Water Torture. This one needs to get a snack, then that one needs something to drink, the dog scratches at the door to go out, then there is an attempt by a five-year-old at shuffling the deck. The dog scratches to come back in. The cup of water gets spilled. The nine-year-old is tap-tap-tapping her cards on the table, and I’m looking at my phone every five minutes to see if it is time for bed yet and cursing every Draw Four card that gets played.

Sometimes I think I could hang onto my sanity if only everyone would kindly just shut up. My youngest has been talking since she was born. You couldn’t quiet her unless there was a nipple in her mouth and we used that binky way longer than we should have. Still, I don’t enjoy feeling like the Grinch looking down on my little Who-Ville complaining about “the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!” I get why he freaked out though.

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Dr. Ray Gaurendi, author of the book Back to the Family, says “Patience is an ideal to strive for. It is not a day-to-day reality.”

It’s certainly not my reality most days, but then there are those other days, the ones where I don’t just tolerate the clamor, I enjoy it; where the silly line of questions amazes me; where instead of hiding, I want to immerse myself in the chaos of these crazy kids, my crazy kids.

Let’s face it, if you are around your children enough to be irritated by them, you’re doing a good job. And if you lose your shit from time to time, remember to cut yourself a little slack, too. We can’t be Stepford Moms all the time. If patience is the ideal, I’ll keep on striving.