Adult Lessons

Is this not completely accurate?

Is this not completely accurate?

As a kid, I dreamed of being an adult. I imagined staying up late, eating bowls of chocolate ice cream (with rainbow sprinkles) in my beanie baby infested room, and watching television until the sun came up. I suppose most kids have these thoughts about adulthood- blissfully ignorant of what it means to make a living for yourself, pay bills, and handle personal and household responsibilities.

While I’ve technically been an adult for nine years, I often feel like my journey into adulthood is just beginning. Simply put, this stuff is hard. It seems there’s a new hurdle around every corner, and while I pride myself on being able to clear many of them, it’s not without a few spills.

Most recently, my adult struggles involve making peace with past financial decisions. Family and friends, please forgive me for telling this story for the thousandth time, but for those of you who don’t know, I’ll give you the abridged version.

I was the first in my family to go to a four-year-college. Because my family was unable to finance my education, and we did not qualify for much financial aid, I took out several hefty private educational loans to cover the cost of my private, undergraduate education. At the tender, ignorant age of 18, I had no idea what signing those loan forms meant. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I immediately went on to earn my master’s degree (this time, I did qualify for some financial aid, but still managed to rack up some student loan debt). When it was all said and done, my student loan debt equaled the amount of a middle-class house in the ‘burbs.

I went on to snag a job, one that paid well, but not great (those in the “helping” field usually aren’t the most generously compensated). Soon after, my husband and I went on to have a child, and buy a few vehicles we probably shouldn’t have. At the time, our thinking was, “We work hard, so we deserve it!” Oh, to be young…and dumb.

Fast forward to the present. My family and I relocated to our home state, and are expecting our second child. We moved with only one of us having secured a job (my husband). Things are extremely tight, but we’re doing okay, thankfully.

Since the move, I’ve questioned and beaten myself up about countless things, for example:

“Why did you take out all those educational loans?”

“You should have gone to community college. Why didn’t you?”

“Why didn’t you buy a car you could afford? Financing that car was such a mistake.”

“If you’d budgeted over the last few years, you’d probably own a home now.”

“Why didn’t you do more math before you decided to have children? They are expensive, you know!”

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

It is incredibly easy for me to sink into that angsty, “nobody understands me,” “I can’t do anything right,” mindset.

My natural tendency is to become somewhat “woe is me” about the sticky situations I find myself in, but for the first time, I’m acknowledging that I put myself there…, or here. I took out those educational loans, I bought that car, I decided to have children. Nobody held me down and forced me to do any of those things. It’s not my parent’s fault. It’s not my husband’s fault. It’s my fault.

At times, I’ve thought, “Well, you didn’t know what it would be like to pay back all those loans,” so it’s okay to feel the way you do. What I’ve learned, though, is that when you’re an adult, ignorance doesn’t excuse you from the fall-out of your actions.

I know this post isn’t “mom-related,” per se, but it’s human related, and I think, relevant. We have all made decisions, or acted in ways we wished we hadn’t. Some of you may beat yourself up about these things; maybe some of you don’t. It seems the adult thing to do in these situations is acknowledge our culpability, do whatever we can to ameliorate the situation, and move on (having learned something, hopefully).

Some may question why I choose to be so open about my challenges. To this, all I can say is- it makes me feel better. Putting my thoughts and struggles on paper, or Word document, rather, gives me relief I can’t get anywhere else..not to mention the fact that had I spoken the words of this post, it wouldn’t have sounded nearly as put together.

So, this is me, trying to do the adult thing, owning up, and letting go of my past mistakes.

Fifty-Three Minutes, Emotions, Milk, and an Ikea Crib: Toddler Bedtime Woes

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She didn’t sleep well last night, and woke from her afternoon nap today in a particularly foul mood; I guess I shouldn’t have expected bedtime tonight to be smooth sailing.

After Chad took P up to bed, I sat down with my computer to list a few things on Ebay (How did I accumulate so much stuff I don’t need, anyway?).

A few minutes later, I heard the familiar “thump, thump thump” of my husband’s footsteps coming down the stairs. The thumps were immediately followed by crying, P’s crying.

Usually, Chad or I take her up to bed awake, lay her in her crib (awake), and she puts herself to sleep. Not tonight.

“I’ll handle it,” I say.

I sit outside P’s door for about a minute. She is full-on wailing.

“Yep, way past the ‘ability to soothe herself’ threshold,” I say to myself.

Upon entering her room, I find P standing in her crib, tears streaming down her cheeks, bleary eyed. She begins cralking (cry talking), but I can’t understand a word between the sobs and the binky.

After about a minute, I manage to make out “daddy,” “downstairs,” and “all done.”

“Honey, it’s time for bed,” I say. “We aren’t going downstairs.”

P throws her leg over the side of the crib, and makes an impressive attempt to climb out.

I walk to the crib, gently remove her, sit her down on her beanbag chair (next to the crib), and plop down beside her. For ten minutes I attempt to soothe P; I sing, I stroke her hair, and I tickle her arms (she loves that). Eventually, she pushes me away, and stands up.

“Night, night,” she says.

“You want to go to sleep in your crib?,” I ask, skeptically.

“Yes.”

I do as instructed. I place P in her crib, kiss her goodnight, and walk out the door.

Not ten seconds later, she’s screaming. Like, banshee, “I’m being beaten and tortured” screaming.

I slump down next to P’s closed door and hope maybe she’ll calm down in a minute or two.

Seconds pass, and then a full minute. She’s still screaming.

“Mama, Mama, Mama, Maaaaaamaaaaa,” she wails.

My child wants me; my child is crying out for me. How can I ignore that?

Then, there’s silence.

“Maybe she’s finished. Maybe she’s going to go to sleep,” I think.

Approximately eight seconds pass, and the shrieks begin again.

I breathe in deeply, and breathe out.

“I wish she knew how much I hate this, too,” I think.

I re-enter P’s room, walk over to her crib, and climb in. I should probably mention to those who may not know that I’m about six months pregnant.

Why get in the crib, you ask? Well, experience, mostly. I’ve only had to do it a handful of times, maybe five or six, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

You see, P does not do well in our bed; moving to our room would require leaving her room, which would mean catching a glimpse of the stairs, which would give her false hope that she was going to escape the evils of bedtime and venture to the great living room below (with toys and television, and all sorts of un-bedtimey things). Also, since our bed isn’t enclosed, it would be a constant battle to keep her on the bed. I knew P was tired, and for me, when it’s bedtime, it’s bedtime.

I awkwardly lay down in the crib, knees slightly bent, arms behind my head. I am immediately reminded how satisfied I am with P’s inexpensive, no-frills Ikea crib; the thing holds weight like a pro.

P is not calmed by my presence. She continues to shriek for at least two minutes.

“Daddy. Downstairs. All done!!,” P cralks.

It takes all my restraint not to shriek back, “Just go the **** to sleep!” (this day has seriously been one tantrum after another.. more like this whole week, really). Instead, I take a slow, deep breath, and manage a gentle “It’s bedtime, sweetheart.”

I pull P down to the mattress, lay her head down on her Minnie Mouse pillow, and hold her- firmly, but not too tightly. I begin singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and tickling her arm. She whines, but lays still.

After a few off-key, breathless rounds of “Twinkle, Twinkle,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “ABCs,” “Days of the Week,” and tickles, P appears calm- she’s awake, but quietly cuddling her crocheted blanket. Now it’s time for step two: pretending to be asleep.

Step two is usually the longest. I close my eyes, and wonder how long I’ll be in the crib. If I go before she’s asleep, she’ll start wailing, and the process will start all over again (I’ve learned from experience, trust me.).

“Never give up,” I tell myself. “You are stronger than this tot.”

P lays for a few minutes, then sits up. She moves to the other end of the crib, rubs her face against the plush sheet, and then moves back toward me. She lays back down on the pillow and begins cuddling her blanket. At this time, a loud, obnoxious car can be heard racing down the street through P’s open window. I crack my right eye and see P startle, and sit up.

“Mama, loud car,” she says.

“Yes, it was loud. Now it’s time for bed,” I say.

People who interfere with my child’s sleep (like Mr. Nascar) are on my sh** list. Seriously, don’t mess with bedtime.

For the next twenty minutes, P rolls around, repositions herself, covers her face with her blanket, uncovers it, and mumbles to herself.

At one point, P lays her head next to my stomach, and her little brother begins doing fetus gymnastics.  

“I wonder if she can feel that?” I think to myself.

P then sits up and pokes my cheek with her finger.

“Mama, mama,” she says.

I lay like a stone. After ten agonizing seconds, she lays back down.

I’m now mentally screaming “Go to bed, kid!” “Your sleep is regulated by nothing but circadian rhythms and your own desires. Sleep while you can!”

But it isn’t long before my thoughts shift.

“I could really use a nice, tall glass of milk. I’ve been drinking it a lot lately. Has milk always been so delicious?,” I wonder.

I then remember the mountain of things still left to do tonight: clean the kitchen, list the items on Ebay, study for a ridiculous math exam (long story, folks), work on our budget, get a shower, etc., etc.

“Man, I’m thirsty,” I think. “Maybe before the milk, I’ll drink some water.”

P sits up, moves to the other end of the crib, and lays her head down on my knee.

“Please, please don’t fall asleep there,” I silently beg. “Anywhere but there.”

It’s hard enough to move to a sitting position and creep out of the crib undetected when P’s not sleeping on me. The pregnant belly thing also makes the process a little more complicated.

I want so badly for P to move, but she looks so incredibly peaceful, eyes closed, nestled up to my leg.

“I really love her,” I think to myself. In spite of the tantrums, the whacks to the face, and the lack of sleep since her little butt entered the world, the love I have for her cannot be articulated with words.

I lay still for another ten minutes, or however long it is until my leg begins cramping.

“I think it’s safe, now,” I tell myself.

I look around the crib and try to piece together an escape plan. P’s head is still propped up on my leg, but if I move to a sitting position, I may be able to ease her head up, and sneak out. I stretch my arm toward the end of crib, grab the back railing, and lift myself up. The crib creaks, and P stirs.

“Like a statue,” I tell myself. “Just. Stay. Still.”

A few seconds pass, and I begin to ease P’s head off my leg. I look around for something to prop her head on in place of me, but she’s laying on both blankets.

“It’s now or never,” I tell myself.

I stealthily jerk my knee from beneath P’s head, stand up, and ease myself out of the crib (as well as any pregnant humpty-dumpy can).

“Success!”

I glance back at the crib; P is still peacefully sleeping. Without another second’s hesitation, I slip out the door.

Sixty-five minutes were spent trying to get P to go to sleep, 53 of those minutes were spent in her crib.

The household tasks can wait until tomorrow. On to that glass of milk..

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So Much Richer Than We Realize

RICH-WOMAN

I grew up in a home where we routinely talked about all the things we wanted- a bigger house, a nicer car, beach vacations, “to win the lottery,” etc. I don’t think it’s uncommon to want for things; I mean, where would we be if we were consistently content with the status quo?

As birthdays passed, and I transitioned from crusty-nosed kid to angsty adolescent, I began to look at the things others had, and feel sorry for myself.

“It’s so unfair,” I’d think.

“I want to go to the Bahamas like Megan and her family.”

“I want a new car like Eric.”

“I want, I want, I want.”

I’m not sure if it’s maturity, my background in psychology, or a combination of factors, but my tune has changed in recent years.

We are all so much richer than we realize. Think about it. Do you lay awake at night wondering where you’ll find clean water to drink? Is there a constant threat of being forced from your home, or attacked? Are you able to freely walk the streets of your hometown? Do you want so badly to learn to read, but have no means of doing so? If I had to guess, I’d say most of you answered “no” to all four questions. Unfortunately, for many people across the globe, these are legitimate worries/fears.

When you put it into perspective, a Caribbean vacation and a new car seem pretty trivial, don’t they?

As stated in the opening lines, I don’t think it’s bad, or wrong to want things; it’s part of being human. But, for those of us who aren’t likely to take that beach vacay or get that new car anytime soon, it helps to think about all of the things/experiences we do have. I can walk into any grocery store and choose from over 100 breakfast cereals. I can take my daughter to the local lake and watch her frolic in the sand. I can learn about almost anything just by checking a book out from my local library. Pretty amazing, I think.

On paper, I don’t have much (well, unless you count educational debt), but in my mind and heart, I’m rich as rich can be. I have a beautiful family, my health, and of course, unlimited breakfast cereal choices. It took me some time to get to this point, but it feels good.

Soul-Sucking Parenting Days

 

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I remember when P was just a few weeks old; we were driving home from an appointment, one in which she shrieked the entire way home, and recall thinking

“I don’t think I can do this.”

“I don’t know if I can be a mom anymore.”

I call these moments/days “soul-sucking parenting days.”

If there’s a parent on this sweet earth who hasn’t experienced one of these moments/days, I salute you. I’d also like to know your secret(s). But, for those of you’ve who’ve had these days, know you’re not alone.

It’s not that I don’t adore my child-we’ve shared countless inexplicably joyful times. That said, I won’t pretend that all days are destined for the baby book. Take, for example, one steamy day in July, 2013. Little P was teething, and whined/cried/shrieked all day. She cried when I held her, and she cried even harder when I put her down. She threw herself on the floor, hit me (repeatedly), wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t sleep. I wholeheartedly believe that day shaved a few months from my life. That was also the day I swore I would never have another child (things change, I guess).

I’m sure there are thousands of blog posts/articles on the ‘net about parenthood not being all sugar cookies and unicorns, but I don’t think it hurts to reiterate.

Being a parent is hard. Sometimes, it sucks. And now and then, it sucks out a tiny bit of your soul.

To be a parent is a blessing- one that doesn’t come easily and/or at all for some, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t entitled to our feelings. We don’t have to love being a parent all the time, and we don’t have to pretend like we do.

Children can be irrational, temperamental, ego-driven little tyrants. We try to rationalize with beings who, many times, are incapable of rational thought. Who wouldn’t get frustrated with that?

So, parents, take a breath. Step away from the child who just b****slapped you in the eye for the third time today. Make yourself an adult beverage, and know that whatever crappy feelings you’re having are okay.

Here’s to you, and to a less soul-sucking day tomorrow.

Cheers.

Love Like a Toddler

Mama

“P, we can’t go outside yet. It’s only 5:30.”

P runs over to the stair landing, throws herself down, and slaps her open palms against the carpet.

I walk over to her, but she swats me away. “No, no!” she cries, tears rolling down her rosy, full cheeks.

Five minutes later, she is happily perched in my lap. “Hi, Mama. Hi, Mama,” she says, smiling and holding my hand.

This morning, I realized something.

I wish I could love like a toddler.

When I get mad, I’ve been known to stay so for hours, sometimes even days at a time. I’ll seethe, and mentally replay whatever scenario upset me, which only serves to make me angrier.

Love seems so much simpler for toddlers. There’s no silent treatment, few or no retaliation attempts, and the “injustices” done to them are forgotten within minutes.

Today, I will take a note from my wise-beyond-her-years toddler. I will try to forget about the inconsequential upsets, and just love.

Thanks, P.

Selfish Mom

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I’ve heard it all…

“You don’t breastfeed? How selfish!”

“You spent a weekend away from your baby?  Why did you bother becoming a parent, then?”

“You go out for girl’s night? Your poor baby!

“You work full-time? What, and leave your baby with strangers all day?” (Insert eye roll and general look of disgust)

While some of these comments were a little more subtle than others, the general message was clear: I’m a bad, selfish mom.

It seems a sizeable portion of moms believe that children always come first, at the expense of a mother’s well-being, happiness, and health. I’ve never bought into that way of thinking, and I don’t think I ever will. To me, always putting my child first would send the message that mothers aren’t important, that their needs, desires, and wishes are inconsequential. I believe this thinking could be especially detrimental for male children; is this the way they will go on to treat the other women in their lives (e.g. friends, co-workers, girlfriends, and wives)?

My daughter is fed, clothed, intellectually and physically stimulated, and happy. She isn’t unloved or neglected in any way. My going out with the girls, spending time alone with my husband, and working full-time outside the home aren’t going to ruin her. The way I see it, my daughter gets to spend special time with her father, grandparents, and loving daycare provider. If anything, she is enriched by the number of caring, supportive adults in her life. As an added bonus, mom is happy and fulfilled in other, important areas of her life. I am a better mother because I have time to myself, time with husband, and time with my girlfriends. I don’t believe women should give up on the other roles in their lives simply because they became mothers. It is okay to be more than a mother.

So, do I buy into the “bad, selfish mom” talk?

No.

Do I feel guilty for the choices I make?

Can’t say that I do.

And you shouldn’t either. Moms are people, too. Important ones at that!

Ch-Ch-Changes

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For almost two years, I’ve been a working (outside the home) mom. That’s two years of juggling early morning feedings/breakfast, attempting to get my squirmy, self-directed little one ready for daycare, and trying to make myself look presentable.

For almost two years I’ve traveled the suburban roads of Washington, D.C. on the way to my job as a public school psychologist.

In a mere month, the early morning shuffle will cease. No more rushed breakfasts, spilled Ovaltine, or hellish beltway commutes. No more “Oh, s***, I’m going to be late…she just pooped,” or “How did that end up on my work pants?!”

I’m about to be a temporary stay-at-home-mom.

Hopeful, anxious, excited, sad, mildly terrified.. Since I’ve agreed to this change, I’ve vacillated between these feelings, and probably more.

But now, I suppose I should give you a little back-story.

My husband and I are originally from rural Pennsylvania; we moved to Maryland when I began graduate school, and relocated to the ‘burbs of D.C. when I secured a full-time position after graduation. After the birth of our daughter during my internship year, we discussed the possibility of “moving back home,” but never actively pursued it. A few weeks ago, upon learning we were expecting baby number two, we began casually discussing the possibility again. “Maybe it will happen in a year or two,” we thought.

While the culture and job opportunities are amazing in our current area, Pennsylvania would mean a lower cost of living, the possibility of owning a single-family home, not having to worry about which public school our children would attend, and being closer to our families.

Because there are fewer jobs in Pennsylvania, it would be almost impossible for my husband and I to find good jobs at the same time. So, we agreed; if one of us was presented with a good job opportunity, we would take it, and make the move. On a whim, my husband applied for a higher-level position in Pennsylvania. Two days later, he got a call for an interview. A day after the interview, he was offered the job. Two days after that, we received the official offer with the details. We agreed that he’d take the job, and we’d move.

Since I’m expecting, and don’t want to risk being denied maternity leave again, my husband and I think it will be best for me to stay home until our second child is born. Additionally, there are several exams and a mountain of paperwork I must pass and complete in order to become certified to work in my field in Pennsylvania.

It will be a welcome break to forgo the nightly diaper bag packing, lunch prep, and commute. It will be nice to spend additional quality time with my daughter, and possibly read a book or two (for fun!). But, I will miss my friends. I will miss Indian buffet lunches with my wonderful colleagues. And, maybe I’ll even miss dressing up for work. Maybe.

I’m nervous about moving to a new town, one in which I know no one.

I’m nervous about my student loans, which will have to sit on the back-burner for a few months.

My heart hurts for my daughter, who has grown to love her in-home daycare, her provider, and the provider’s son. Just a little aside- for those who say they don’t want “strangers” watching their children while they work, I can promise you that when you find the right caregiver(s), they become family to you, and to your children.

As I ponder the conclusion of this post, I can’t pinpoint exactly what I want to say, or the point I’d like to make. I guess I’d just like to state the obvious, and that is: being an adult is hard. Having to take chances without knowing how things will turn out is scary; making decisions that directly impact others is scarier yet. My intuition tells me we’re doing the right thing for our family. I just hope I can do the stay-at-home-mom role justice for my family, and for myself.