Great Expectations

In an attempt to receive Over-Achiever  Mom of the Year, I made sure to take Charlotte to swim class, library time, and playgroups all before she could even support her own neck. Madeleine on the other hand, has had to adjust to a one-nap-a-day schedule starting at 9 months old because two naps wasn’t convenient for Charlotte’s busy social calendar. Naturally I hold a certain amount of guilt about Madeleine getting the second-born shaft. Imagine my excitement when Charlotte began attending preschool 3 mornings a week which freed up some quality Mom & Maddie bonding time. I quickly signed us up for gymnastics and Music Together. I was saving Music Together for only one child because if both of my kids were to attend, we would have to forgo their college education to cover the cost (however since my girls will either be getting a women's engineering or athletic scholarship we should be covered regardless). Plus as a backup plan, Bernie will be president by then, so college will be free and we can finally buy that four person tandem bicycle we’ve had our eye on that is a family requirement here in Davis.

My expectations of Music Together were the following: Madeleine on my lap with a tambourine in one hand with my hand in the other as we swayed to the music, while I resolved my mommy-guilt and I watched as the neuron’s in her little brain fired as she became a more well-rounded individual. So super healthy and not at all unrealistic. It couldn’t have gone any worse than if Madeleine had taken that tambourine from my fantasy and smacked me in the face with it. I actually may have preferred that to the 40 minutes we spent thrashing on the floor and her sobbing in the lobby like I did the day Trump got elected. Not only was she terrified of the room we were in, but she hated everything about the other kids-- from the instruments in their hands to the clothes they were wearing.

Didn’t my not yet two-year-old understand that I was doing this for her? This was supposed to be our special time and she was ruining it by not appreciating it because she is not yet two. This is the age-old truth where you buy your child the fanciest most expensive toy in the store and they play with the box. Except what I finally realized was she doesn’t want the toy, the box or anything else-- she only wants me. It isn’t about the things we do, it is about our quality time together. Madeleine is perfectly content to play the drums on my mom-belly for 20 minutes and all that costs is a momentary blow to self-esteem, which is worth it just to watch her giggle.


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What's Hard to Swallow

One thing I don’t enjoy is getting advice about my girls, especially on an already sensitive topic. You better believe I am not reading the magazine at the doctor’s office featuring a 22-year-old model without stretch marks holding what is obviously not her baby next to the headline, “How to get your child to stop whining in 3 easy steps”.

The millennial in me is not open to suggestions, especially as it pertains to what I consider to be my most glorious achievements: my daughters. I would rather stand naked in the middle of the street than say, “I need help understanding my kids!” I’m the expert because I know when they are outside shrieking like elephants they have come into contact with a bee, or a fly, or a spider which they also call a “bee”. Turns out I am not an expert in knowing how to get Charlotte to pick up food and place it in her mouth, chew and then swallow. Whether it be a vegetable or quinoa, I was bribing her, pleading and losing the daily war on food.

My husband arrived home one night last week to me ugly crying while chopping bok choy. He assumed, based on my theatrics, that I had severed a finger, so imagine his confusion when I told him that with the help of my sister, I had sought counsel with a nutritionist. My husband, having been on this carousel with me for quite a while responded with, “Is this one of those times that you want me to problem solve or do you just need me to nod and agree with you?” Sigh, love him.

I allowed myself just that night to grieve the end of the era of me knowing everything and I woke up in the morning full of hope that no matter what the day looked like we were going to do what was suggested. That day was a lot like Britney’s 2007 performance on the VMAs the year she shaved her head: too much unnecessary nudity, a lot of mis-steps and over all just a hot mess. But we got through it (as did Britney) and every day since, we have continued to have success at the table.

Madeleine enjoying her lunch of spinach and broccoli.

Madeleine enjoying her lunch of spinach and broccoli.

The crux of it is, is that somebody else knew better than I did how to help my kids with nutrition. And me accepting her help doesn’t make me any less of a mother, but it does make me a better one. They say it takes a village to raise a child and sometimes, for us moms, that can be hard to swallow.

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Love is a Battlefield

I’m pretty sure when Pat Benatar wrote this song, she was singing about her two daughters, “Woah, we are strong, no one can tell us we're wrong”... sound familiar? Welcome to every single moment my children are awake.

These battles start out small like wanting the blue cup over the red cup and slowly as they get older become more elaborate—take my oldest who cannot sit in her car seat while wearing a jacket, sweater, long sleeve shirt or certain dresses because she claims, “they pinch” which is then followed by screaming, then crying and lastly a naked drive to the supermarket.

Short of, “Would you like ice cream for dinner?” there is almost always some sort of back and forth. Now all you child psychologists out there can slow your roll, I’m not talking power struggles where I bribe them, give them their way and then praise them for being such good little angels. I’m talking about things like, after giving them fair time warnings and mental preparations when we are about to leave some place fun to some place not as fun.

Now sometimes it goes like this:

Me: “Your two-minute warning is up; it’s time to leave the playground.”

Both kids: “No.”

Me: “If you don’t get into the bike trailer yourself, then I’m going to have to move your body for you.” (Thank you Janet Lansbury, No Bad Kids)

One child walks over and the other one does not.

Me: “Excellent job listening, Madeleine!”

Charlotte wants praise too so she wanders over.

Me: “Thank you Charlotte for making a good choice.”

End battle scene.

This is an example of a win. I don’t need to paint a picture of a loss because you would likely have to only think back 30 minutes ago to create your own example. Even though this was a success, I still consider it a battle because of the amount of effort it took for me to put on my patient mom face and utilize respectful, direct language which frankly feels about as difficult as me learning to speak Korean at the age of 32. Especially when every ounce of me just wants to snap my fingers and say, “Let’s go.”

We walk a fine line in this day and age between raising children and spoiling them. You want to go to the zoo but only if we get to ride the train? How about we stay home and I read to you about kids living in 3rd world countries that are lucky if they have shoes on their feet instead? Just today I overheard my dear friend’s 5-year-old explain a better schedule for him than the one she had proposed. These are just the little encounters, I won’t even begin to discuss the ones that have you Googling ways to manage stress other than screaming into pillows.   

I am a firm supporter of picking your battles with your little ones. I can tell you right now we do not: bathe, brush hair/teeth, eat a healthy meal, play outside, read books and go to bed singing lullaby’s every day. Something in that equation will have to give way for the epic amount of energy that was required to do the simplest item on that list.

When my girls are passionate about something they come at me full force with their arsenal of pouty lips, tears, and the flail. However, I need only look in the mirror to see where they might have inherited that strong-will and recognize how important it is to keep on fighting the good fight.



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