Luke, my 5 year old honey badger, was 3 when the world shut down. Now, I am not going to lie and say that we did so many things as a family before COVID took over. The truth is, my husband and I are introverts, lead very busy lives, and are tired 100% of the time. So, the thought of piling our insanely energetic family into the car and going out in public is enough to keep us inside. Of course, we do the park and children’s museums but that is about the extent of it. Luke has never been to the movies, doesn’t go with me to the grocery store, and calls Target the “Gift Shop” because he only goes there when we have to buy a present for someone’s birthday and I want him to help me pick it out.
That’s why, when The Lion King came to our hometown, I knew it was time. First, let me promise you that the Lion King is Luke’s favorite movie. We watch the Lion Guard on Disney+ (seasons 1-3) at least once a week and he has a stuffed lion that he sleeps with at night. This was it. This was the time.
We spent the weekend before the play watching YouTube videos of the performance so he could be prepared for the puppets and the sounds. We went over all of the rules about not talking during the play and trying to keep our bodies still for 2 and a half hours. We made sure his belly was full and I snuck water in just in case he got thirsty. I even bought him a baby Simba stuffed animal at the tune of $42 so he could have something to hold onto when the lights went dark. We were ready.
What I wasn’t ready for was the sparkle in his eyes and the amazement that took over once those animals started coming down the aisles. I have an amazing friend who works for one of the sponsors of the theater. She was able to help me get incredible orchestra level seats, just a few rows back from the stage, on the aisle. Luke was close to coming out of his skin he was so excited.
He leaned over to me after about an hour and whispered, “Mommy, I am loving this!” and I melted. He pointed at the actors, clapped after every song, and, despite the conversations about calming our bodies, he wiggled and squirmed with excitement the entire play. I also had to keep asking him to stop lifting his stuffed Simba into the air and whisper-yelling “It is time!”
During the intermission, he was “starving” so we fought the crowds out to the concession to buy a cookie. Of course, because it is Luke, he fell on the way out of our seats and banged his head on the railing. He was fine but we had to talk about being careful even if we are excited. We made our way through all the very long lines, waited behind people that just couldn’t figure out what they wanted, and the announcement came on that we had to get back to our seats or they were going to lock us out for the first bit of the 2nd act. We grabbed our cookies and ran back to our seats, trying not to fall again. We made it.
About 10 minutes into the 2nd act, he leans over again, puts his hand on my hand and says, “Mommy, I think these are real people.” I almost cried it was so sweet. The whole way home he was beaming and we had to go home and turn on Lion Guard before he fell asleep. He was still talking about it this morning on his way to school. I am so glad we did this. It was exhausting but it is a memory I needed and I am glad Luke has it too.
Fifth grade has turned out to be one of my favorites so far in Noah’s little life journey. I remember fifth grade as awkward and full of mean girls and bangs. But, for Noah, he is really coming into his own and blossoming into a really cool human. And, every now and then, I catch a glimpse of a little young adult.
I really felt it on Christmas Eve this year when he asked me the question I knew was coming but was trying to avoid… Is Santa Claus real?
To set the record straight, I have never been a big fan of Santa. And, when I became a mom, I had full intentions of not buying into the whole fat man in a suit bringing presents idea. But that all changed when Noah’s little blue eyes sparkled in the lights of the Christmas tree. It was then that I realized that the magic of Santa was right in front of me- with no fat bearded man in sight.
And that is what I have tried to focus on when it came to Christmas- the magic. That feeling you get when you see the lights on the houses start to go up and when the Christmas songs begin to play on the radio. Magic is in the anticipation of seeing the look on your best friend’s face when they open the most perfect present in the world that you just knew they would love. And I watch the magic appear all around as we get the cherished family Christmas decorations out of the boxes and tell stories about the special ornaments as we place them on the tree.
All this being said, I picked Luke up from after school about 2 weeks before Christmas and, when I told him he would have to wait until after dinner to play on his iPad, he informed me that he not only hated me but he also “didn’t care at all about my Christmas magic because magic isn’t even real!” It is important to note that this is, probably, the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me.
So, even after this incident with Luke – when Noah asked me for the “truth” about Santa – magic, the good kind of sparkling magic, was the only thing that came to mind.
How I revealed the truth about Santa:
“Noah, the truth is, Santa has never been a big fat bearded guy that sneaks down your chimney and leaves you presents. The presents part has always been me and your dad. However, that doesn’t mean that Santa isn’t real. Santa is part of the Christmas magic that makes this time of year so special.
Christmas magic is different as you grow up and, as a little kid, Christmas magic shows up as the idea of a kind and gentle person who loves you and all the kids of the world so much that he wants to share the joy of Christmas with children by bringing them presents. As these kids grow up, like you, Christmas becomes less about the presents and the magic of Santa turns into something else.
Right now, now that you are 10 years old, Christmas magic lives in more than just presents. Remember that feeling you had when you looked at all of the lights in the trees in Sunset Hills? Or that feeling in your belly when we sing Christmas songs together? Or how much you look forward to curling up in our PJs every year to stay up late and watch Home Alone? That feeling that fills your whole body is where the magic of Christmas lives.
Santa now has a different meaning. Now you get to watch the sparkle in Luke’s eyes when he walks into the living room to see the presents that Santa brought. Now you get to see the joy in our faces a little differently when you rummage through your stocking. And now, you will see that Santa is always real as long as you can feel the magic.
When you get older and become a dad, the magic of Santa shifts as you will become the holder of the magic. You get to help create the magic sparkle that you see in your kid’s eyes. And then, your experience of the magic will be even bigger than you could ever imagine. Because you helped to light the spark that you now see twinkling all around you.
Noah- do you have any questions that you want to ask us?”
And, Noah, after me pouring my heart and soul into this conversation that I had been psyching myself up for, in all of his innocent wisdom said… “Umm, do I have to sleep in a shirt tonight because it’s Christmas?”
And the world moves on because it is much bigger than us.
Last week, we sold our house. After 10 years, we sold the first home we ever bought together, the home where we started our marriage and our family. While it was a sad and happy time for me, it was only a happy moment for Matt as he was never the biggest fan of the house in the first place.
However, it was the only house that Noah has ever known. We have spent the last 2 and half months looking for houses and keeping the house clean for showings but, after all of that, it was clear to me that Noah was not fully aware of what moving actually meant. We talked a lot about how we would be living in a new house and a new family would be living in our house. That didn’t seem to help clear up the picture.
It still didn’t quite sink in even after Noah met the new family that would be living in our house. He said, “So they’ll be living in the guest room right next to me!?” So I knew we still had some work to do.
And we didn’t even try to broach the subject of how we would be moving away from his best friend next door. I just wasn’t at a place where I could handle the repercussions of that conversation.
However, when moving day finally came, the house was empty, and we were pulling out of the driveway for the last time, Noah did one of the sweetest things I could have ever imagined.
Me: “Okay buddy. We are leaving the house for the last time. Do you want to say goodbye?”
Noah: “Yes. But can I get out of the car to say goodbye?”
Me: “Of course you can.”
So I got him out of his car seat, he walked up to the house, and placed his hand on the siding. Then it happened.
Noah: “Goodbye house. Thank you for letting me live in you. Thank you for keeping my family safe. Thank you for letting my dogs play in your yard. Thank you for watching my toys while I was at school. Thank you for loving me just as much as I love you. I love you so much and I will miss coming home to you every day. I hope your new family is good to you. I love you.”
Me: [Sobbing like a giant, pregnant baby.] “That is so sweet buddy. Are you okay?”
Noah: “Yeah. I’m fine mommy. I’m ready to go now.”
It’s these moments when I remember how sweet and innocent they are. When the most important things in life are family, dogs, and toys. And when coming home is the most comforting thing to happen to you all day. On to new adventures.
Matt and I work very hard to make sure that Noah is growing up in a body-positive environment. We don’t talk negatively about our bodies, his body, or any other people’s bodies in hopes that he won’t develop any body image issues as he begins to develop. Or at least give him a strong foundation to build strong self-esteem.
Along with positive self-talk, we also have a “no shame” rule about nudity in our house. We don’t wander around naked but, we also don’t go out of our way to hide ourselves or cover up when getting out of the shower. We’ve had all of the talks about privacy, private parts, and about how rules are different in our home than they are in public. You know, all the standard stuff.
However, as body positive as we are, I was not quite prepared for the conversation Noah and I had this morning.
He woke up extra early so we stuck him in our bed so he could watch cartoons while Matt and I got ready for work. I had just gotten out of the shower and was walking around our bedroom getting dressed. [Reminder- I am 7 months pregnant and my body has changed quite a bit over the past few months.]
It went a little something like this-
Noah: “Mommy!! Look at your boobs!!!”
I give him a rather dumb-struck look and I say: “Yes. What about my boobs?”
Noah: “They are just RIDICULOUS!!”
I am now staring at Noah with a little bit of disbelief and a little bit of confusion trying to figure out exactly where this is coming from when, Matt, from the bathroom yells: “Yeah buddy! They are ridiculous!” in a rather macho tone.
At this point, Noah gives me a sheepish grin so I know he knows what he said was inappropriate yet incredibly funny. I have to now deal with my incredibly immature husband and try not to laugh so as to not encourage such behavior.
And, if I do say so myself, my boobs are rather fabulous. Thank you.
As you know, Mother’s Day was this past weekend. Noah’s school had a special Muffins with Mom event and all of the moms were invited. Well, his teacher had mentioned it to me a week before but, because we have about 90 things going on at once, I forgot. Thankfully, I noticed a sign-up sheet on the door on my way out which prompted me to ask what time I needed to be there. 3pm. Got it.
Well, 2:45pm rolled around, I had already arranged with my boss that I needed to leave early to go to Noah’s school for Muffins with Mom. It takes 15 minutes to get there, I’ve been really busy at work lately so every minute counts.
Well, as luck would have it, I hit every single red light on the way and got behind some very slow and pokey individuals. I get to the school and had to park a very long way away down a hill on the side of the road because there were so many other mothers who were there on time. It was 3:05pm.
As I walk in the door, the director of the preschool was, at that very moment, walking out of Noah’s classroom. She had Noah in her arms, his face was beet red, and he was fighting back tears with every bit of energy that he had. When she saw me, she said, “See Noah. I told you your mommy was coming.” (Dagger to the heart.) He runs as fast as he can and gives me the biggest hug.
I squeezed him and said, “I told you I was coming today.” Just those words were apparently the release he needed to let all of those tears he had been holding in go pouring out of his face. In the saddest, most tearful voice ever, he says, “I-I-I didn’t think you were coming.” (Another Dagger to the heart.)
Well, now I feel like the biggest asshole mom on the planet.
I finally get him all calmed down, face wiped, all smiles. We walk in the room and at least 5 different moms proceeded to tell me how sad and pitiful he was the entire time that he waited for me to get there. “His face was so red.” “He was so strong fighting back all those tears.” “You wouldn’t believe how upset he was.” (Dagger, dagger, dagger.)
Damn. I was only 5 minutes late. I’m here now people.
Then, another little boy in the class who had built some kind of solidarity with Noah because they both had deadbeat moms who were late, totally lost it when he saw me enter the room. He was okay when he and Noah were both mom-less. But now that I was there, the tears came on like waterworks. Well, seconds after this, his mom came in and all the other moms started the same comments. “He was so sad.” “He has been crying like crazy.” Seriously people. Leave her alone!
Well, all the mommy guilt aside, Muffins with Mom was really sweet. Noah got to introduce me and was so proud of his Mother’s Day card that he made me. We ate muffins, drank pink lemonade, and had a nice time. I even took him to the park afterwards so that I could make up for being 5 minutes late.
The other day, as a treat, I took Noah to Dairy Queen for some ice cream. He always chooses vanilla ice cream in a cone. I always get a hot fudge sundae. We are predictable like that.
The Dairy Queen is within walking distance so, to get out of the house and get a little exercise, we walked to get our frozen treats. Getting a 4 year old to walk any further than 12 steps when it isn’t his idea is quite a chore but, I persevered. And, even though he complained the entire time we walked there, he was happy licking his ice cream cone the entire walk back.
When we walked into the house, my sundae was already almost gone but his ice cream cone was still just barely licked and was dripping down his chubby little hands and wrists.
Naturally, all of this dripping ice cream was rather interesting to our dog, Poplar, who immediately began following Noah around waiting to clean up any drips (she’s a great cleaner that way).
Well, all of the following and licking made Noah a little flustered and, before I knew it, he was screaming to me from the living room that Poplar was eating his ice cream.
I walk out to find Noah standing with an empty cone, pile of vanilla ice cream splattered on the floor, and our black lab, Poplar, helping herself to the splatter. So, I do what any good mother would do.
I got a bowl and a spoon, scooped up the remaining ice cream, checked for any random hairs or dirt, and handed it right back to Noah. He immediately stopped crying and all was right with the world.
This weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to a wonderful friend’s house who just had a baby 2 months ago (and when I say “invited,” I may possibly mean emailed, texted, and messaged until she finally let me come over). Her baby girl is the most precious little nugget imaginable and, I am sure this is no coincidence to how fabulous she is but, we share the same birthday and middle name! She is destined for greatness, obviously.
But in holding this precious little nugget who has the biggest eyes and the cutest pouty little mouth, I realized something pretty amazing…
Becoming a mother changes you. It creates something deep inside you that remembers all of the little tricks that work to help soothe a fussy baby (who picked today to refuse to take a nap). You remember the right positions to place her on your shoulder so that she can rest and look outside at the trees as the wind blows the leaves around. And you don’t even blink as she drools all over your dry clean only sweater.
Instinctually, I knew exactly what to do. The anxiety went away and the situation was transformed from holding my dear friend’s gorgeous baby to holding Noah when he was 2 months old. He smelled the same, had the same soft, weird hairline head, and made the same erratic and adorable faces. And then, just as nature took over, the little nugget fell asleep. And I stood, for over an hour, just standing and swaying just as I did for countless hours as I walked around my house 3 years ago when Noah was that age (although, I don’t remember my arms being so sore afterwards with Noah- I clearly need to get to the gym if a 10 pound baby has that kind of effect on my biceps). The same bounce and sway combination put this precious nugget to sleep that worked on Noah years ago. And I realized, it’s a mom thing.
No matter how many years span between now and the potential baby number two, I am forever a mom. The instinct has been ingrained in me. I will forever be a light sleeper and the tiniest of sounds will wake me (this will hopefully come in handy as Noah decides that his teenage years are perfect for sneaking out of the house. Or, possibly worse, sneaking someone in!). I will always check my gut feeling first to make the most important decisions. And I will panic with the slightest sense of uncertainty as he ventures out on his own or stumbles into new adventures. This is the destiny of motherhood.
For now, I can bask in the marvel that is someone else’s new baby. And I can relish the amazing sensation that comes from basking in someone else’s infant glory and then handing her back to her mother…
I want to apologize. I have been silent on my blog for the last couple of weeks. Not because crazy parenting things haven’t been happening in my house, but because crazy parenting things can be so emotionally draining that the thought of sitting down at my computer and writing sounded about as wonderful as poking myself in the eye with a stick.
Don’t get me wrong- I love writing. It has always been my solace when life gets crazy. But, as life gets crazier and crazier with a 2 year old, finding time to write (which I used to try and do every day) has gotten to be more and more difficult. I no longer have those 2 to 3 hours at night to think about my day, process my experiences, and enjoy the company of my husband. Now, in those few hours after the baby is in bed and Matt and I can finally “let our guard down,” there is the laundry and the dirty dishes, cleaning and organizing, planning for the next day, and last night, Matt had to go out at 8:30pm and buy pull-ups because daycare sent a note home that Noah needs them to help with potty training at school (seriously- a little more advance notice would be awesome!).
And then the next morning at 5:00am, the alarm goes off and we start again (gym, daycare, work, daycare, 2nd job, bedtime routine, housework, bed…). I never understood the “living for the weekend” mentality… until now.
Usually, it is not that bad (or at least it doesn’t seem like it). I guess we still haven’t fully recovered from our crazy summer. We haven’t been able to have any kind of down-time to collect our sanity. And now, what seems to be adding to the exhaustion is that we have discovered the true meaning of “the terrible twos.”
[Man! Does that kid know how to throw a tantrum!?! I mean, is it built into their genetic coding to throw themselves on the ground and writhe in such a way that it is absolutely impossible to pick them up? Is there a toddler class that I don’t know about that teaches them how to go completely limp as soon as they hear the word no?]
Fortunately, I have an amazing husband who does way more than his fair share of the work around the house. He will be the first to tell you that I cannot clean worth a damn. I don’t pre-rinse the dishes before they go in the dishwasher, I don’t measure the laundry detergent or separate colors from whites, and I only vacuum in the event of an emergency. Oh and I am terrible at cleaning up actual messes (be it dog- or baby-created mess).
In fact, the other night, I opened a container of yogurt for Noah’s supper. Somehow, the container slipped out of my hand and strawberry Greek yogurt went flying. I mean, there was yogurt splattered all over the floor, the kitchen cabinets, Noah’s toys, and me.
What I should have done: Get out the mop and cleaning stuff, gotten down on my hands and knees and cleaned up the spill (which is what Matt would have done).
What I actually did: Called the dogs in, let them lick everything, and yelled to Matt, “Don’t worry! I handled it!”
Needless to say, Matt does all of the cleaning. He even re-cleans everything that I tried to clean the first time. I do all of the cooking and grocery shopping. Pre-baby, I handled all of the financial decisions and banking stuff. Post-baby, we split this task. And we have reimagined our previously very defined and rigid roles within our relationship because, well, we had to. Parenting not only shifts your worldview and the way that you experience your environment, it creates new challenges and opportunities that force you to reimagine everything.
I am not a perfect parent… I am so far from being a perfect anything that the word perfect doesn’t even sound like a real word anymore. In a previous post, I talked about striving for adequacy. And I think Matt and I are succeeding. We just need to be reminded of this bigger goal every now and then.
I need to remember that it is okay to force my child to wear pants to school even though it takes 10 minutes to put them on his chunky little writhing and squirming legs. I need to remember that being late to drop him off sometimes is just a fact of life now. And, even though Matt would disagree, it is okay to let the dogs lick up the mess in the kitchen rather than clean it the proper way.
Oh, and remember to write more. For my sanity!
Throughout my life, I have consistently heard my mother discuss the importance of choosing your battles wisely. She seemed to always be referring to my selection of clothing (which if I recall correctly, my fashion sense at 6 years old was trendy and fashion forward— side pony tails and stirrup pants were cool, right?).
And, as a parent of a 2 year old, I have lots (and lots) of opportunities to choose my battles on a daily basis. This morning, for instance, Noah refused to eat his breakfast and stood in the kitchen pouting and stomping his feet. Currently, Matt and I are fully engrossed in the “ignore the tantrum” phase of discipline but, when you’re trying to get him ready for preschool and yourself ready for work, there is only so much time you can “ignore the tantrum.”
After about 5 minutes of ignoring the pouting and stomping, I walked calmly in the kitchen, knelt down on my knees, and asked him if he was ready to eat his breakfast. He looked up with tear-filled eyes and said, “Mommy, I need poons.” I tried to hide my giggles as I opened the silverware drawer and watched him gather all 9 of the baby spoons in his tiny, fat fist and run into the living room yelling, “Look Daddy! Poons!”
We then spent about 15 minutes longer than usual watching him eat his french toast sticks with 9 different rubber-tipped spoons. This was not a battle I wanted to fight. And, not fighting this battle (although time consuming and covered in syrup) made for some really cute and really developmentally friendly conversation with a toddler. He was proud of himself for figuring out how to do it. I was proud of him for knowing what he wanted and making it happen. And the dogs were more than happy to clean up the syrupy mess.
This was the battle this morning. The past few weeks, I have chosen not to worry about the fact that sometimes, he wants to wear socks (and often, more than 1 pair at a time) with his sandals to school. If he sees a hat, he has to put it on. Even if it is 90 degrees outside and he finds a winter toboggan in the drawer, it goes on his head for the rest of the day. The child sometimes goes a week without getting his hair washed because he cries to the point of vomiting when a little water gets in his eyes. He insists on wearing at least 2 Batman Band-Aids on his legs at all times and we have to watch Pitch Perfect at least once a day, sometimes more (I think we have probably seen it 42 times- and counting).
But, he eats his vegetables, he uses his words (most of the time) when he wants something, he hugs and snuggles, and he plays and plays until his head gets sweaty. Yes, he refuses to let us brush his teeth for more than like 5 seconds, but he is one happy little boy.
So what if he’s the smelly kid every now and then!?
I am going to save up my battles for when they count. Not sure which battles I’ll choose. We stand firm on a few- holding mommy or daddy’s hand in the parking lot, staying buckled in the cart at the grocery store, you know, safety stuff.
But everything else is just Noah trying to figure out how to be Noah. Yes, tonight I will have to wash 9 spoons, cue up Pitch Perfect on the DVR, and get out 2 new Batman Band-Aids, but, in the long run, who cares. Plus, it is really funny to watch him dance and sing to “Turn the Beat Around”—especially when he’s wearing 3 pairs of socks.
Wow… today is the last day of July. In this crazy busy life that I have, with all of the responsibilities (both good and bad) I cannot believe that today is the last day of July. Fall is around the corner and then its Christmas and then hello 2014.
I think the reason today’s date took me by surprise is that I just never could have imagined how fast time goes by. This has been a pretty insane year for me and my family. When 2013 started, I was a stay-at-home mom (I did see clients in the evenings but only a couple nights a week). Noah was active but not near the acrobatic, overly-ambitious daredevil that he is now. I was able to keep the house relatively clean, cook dinner most nights, and spend time with friends and family on a pretty regular basis.
And, the best part of my “previous life,” I got to spend all day with my little man. We played outside, we went on adventures, we went to Little Gym twice a week, and I took him with me on all of my errands. We were a pretty awesome team. Now that I am working full time and still seeing clients at night, I miss these moments desperately.
If you had asked me 5 years ago if I would have loved being at home 24/7 with my kids, I would have laughed in your face. I was a go-getter! I was the person that worked way too many hours, took work home with me on a nightly basis, and answered work emails and phone calls all weekend long.
Then I became a mother. Well—actually, I became a counselor first. Transitioning from my previous job to graduate student transformed me and my outlook on life. While learning to be a counselor, I learned so much more about myself and how to be a better person (which made me a better wife and mother) than I ever could have anticipated.
I learned how to set boundaries with my clients- and within my personal life. I learned how to evaluate and process the experience rather than the outcome- with clients and with myself. And I learned how to help my clients set realistic goals and make healthy changes- which forced me to practice what I preach.
Then, in my final semester of graduate school, I became a mother. Everything changed again.
And it continues to change- with every new word that wonderful baby says, every new boo-boo that needs to be kissed, and every bug that I have to rush to get out of his hands before he puts it into his mouth, my outlook on life is continually changing. I hate that I miss those moments all day long that are shaping who my son will become. Yes, I get it. I set the foundation and I am there at nights and on the weekends, blah, blah, blah. Dammit- I miss the boring every day moments that are so precious and so mundane and so hilarious. I want to smack his teachers in the face when they tell me about all of the adorable and sweet moments they got to witness while I was at work.
When I picked him up yesterday, Noah started talking about something with such enthusiasm and intensity that his little face started turning red. Of course, I could only understand bits and pieces because toddlers throw a lot of unnecessary sounds and babbles in there. I had to look to his teacher to figure out the rest of it. In that moment, I realized how much I am missing and how much I miss him. I need to do a much better job at soaking him in when I have him.
So, my realistic, attainable, and measurable goal for this last day of July is to take time each day (even if it is only 5 minutes) doing the things that I miss with my baby boy. Just me and him…
And I am going to resist the urge to smack anyone in the face.