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Posts Tagged ‘parenting is hard’

One of the most difficult aspects of parenting (for a highly-anxious, prone-to-catastrophizing person like me) is that there is an endless number of potential issues to contend with, and that so many of them come up without warning or context, leaving you to wonder, Is this a normal variation that is just part of a typical childhood? Or is this pathological and requires intervention? 

I don’t even know what to give as an example, because the things seem to come entirely out of the blue and I have ZERO idea how to handle them. But things like lying or bed wetting or stuttering – all things that could be Just A Phase, or could be Signs Of A More Complex Problem, but you don’t know until you know, I guess? I hate that. I want to be able to ask my mom or go on Google and hear/read, “A small percentage (5 to 13%) of children DO tend to turn purple at some point, usually between the ages of 6 and 11, but sometimes as early as age 3. Sometimes the hue leans a bit more toward blue or a bit more toward magenta; it typically fades after six months, but can last for up to two years. Avoiding crucifers during this time can truncate the duration. If your child’s skin develops yellow polka dots during the purple phase, take them immediately to the doctor.” 

Like, just CLEAR and COMFORTING information that says, this is not super common, but it DOES happen, and here’s what to watch for if you are concerned it’s taking an atypical turn… Why can’t there be that for every possible variation of child behavior? WHY. 

(I know why.)

Anyway, what I am hoping to discuss currently is The Teenage Years. 

It seems that I have had MULTIPLE encounters lately with adults who like to say, “Just wait until she’s a teenager.” Sometimes, this is in response to Extreme Sassafras (why is there only one S on the end of this word??) on the part of my child, who sometimes turns up the sass factor because she has the mistaken impression that people find it charming/funny. Well. Some people do, in fact, find it charming and funny, which I find tiresome and irritating. But they don’t have to experience True Sass on a daily basis, so I suppose I should give them a break. Sometimes, this baffling warning comes in response to witnessing/discussing something lovely that my kid does – like how she still holds my hand (sometimes) when we’re walking, or how she’ll still sit on my lap while I read to her, or how she still loves to run up and fling herself at people she cares about for a big hug. “Just wait until she’s a teenager,” they’ll intone, this time with a tenor of pre-wistfulness or knowledgeable sadness.

I am familiar with the “cherish the moment” faction. And I am familiar with the “better sleep now, because you won’t sleep again once the baby’s born!” faction. And I am familiar with the concept of people who either forget how much they disliked being forewarned about things you can literally do nothing about or who feel in their heart of hearts that they have somehow encountered The One Person who has gone an entire lifetime without encountering the concept of a phase of life that literally all people go through. People are just… going to do this. From now until the end of time, probably. And yet, I still find this so irritating I want to scream. 

Probably it is because I am growing increasingly anxious/fearful of The Teenage Years with every passing day. 

And also, I am irritated because it feels inescapably gendered. I don’t think my friend who has sons gets “Just wait until he’s a teenager”ed every five minutes. Plus, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say things in knowing, faux-concerned voices about how a person (usually the father) is going to endure life with THREE TEENAGE DAUGHTERS, as if that is just the absolute worst thing that any human can live through. 

But mainly, I am irritated because I cannot do anything about it. Nothing. If we are very lucky, my daughter will grow and age and at some point become A Teenager. That is a thing that happens. I cannot prolong her not-a-teenager years any more than I can prolong my own youth. 

I am not discounting the very real effects of hormonal changes on young adults! I realize that teenagers CAN be moody and distant and disrespectful and all the terrible things! I get it! Puberty is an actual phenomenon that changes people’s behavior!  

But I am just super annoyed at the people who keep saying, “Just you wait.” WHAT am I supposed to do with that information? Cherish every non-teenage moment, I suppose. 

Today, I am going to make two lists. One list of things that I can look FORWARD to about the teenage years, and a list of things that I want to address when my daughter is a teen. Preferably, my husband and I would discuss and have a plan for these things well in advance, but to be honest, they seem both so horrifying and so far away that I am struggling to focus on them. 

Things About the Teenage Years to Look Forward To

  • Having a kid who can drive herself to / from places (I recognize that this is also a negative point, because I cannot fathom my precious baby a) operating an enormous motor vehicle or b) driving around in the world with so many oblivious idiots)
  • Being able to watch ALL (most) movies together
  • Prom
  • Having more time to myself / more silence (“Just you wait,” says the knowing post-teenage parent, “When she’s a teenager you’ll find yourself LONGING for the days when she talked nonstop for four straight hours.”)
  • Fewer toys cluttering up the house
  • Real conversations 
  • No need for a babysitter
  • Another cook in the house
  • No more playdates – or, at least, not being in charge of scheduling/organizing playdates and enduring the unbearable awkwardness of interacting with parents I don’t know 
  • No longer needing to be the communication bridge between my kid and her friends

Things I Want to Figure Out How to Address

  • Social media
  • Phone / screen time
  • Peer pressure around sex / drugs / alcohol / social media / appearance
  • Sexual assault
  • Driving, with and without friends
  • Spending the night at other kids’ houses
  • Romantic relationships

Well, these lists both seem too short. I did consult a few online lists along the lines of “Great Things About Having a Teen!” Some of them – like enjoying shopping together, or sharing clothing and makeup – seem difficult to predict; I don’t know if Carla will care about shopping or clothing or makeup. And I want to emphasize academics and career-planning, but I’m not sure how to do so in a way that prioritizes Carla’s personality/goals rather than emphasizing the values I grew up with, so I’m not putting it on the list currently. I will continue to think about these topics and add to the lists as I come up with new items. Let me know what you would include. (And if you have any good books about anticipating / raising teenagers, I would be interested in those!)

In the meantime, I ordered this book over the weekend: 

image from amazon.com

While Carla is not quite nine, we are knocking on nine’s door. I am really hoping that the heretofore kind, measured Louise Bates Ames doesn’t say anything akin to, “Just WAIT until she’s a teenager.”

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Welcome to the first week of dinners for the new year. An entire year of meal planning and shopping for those meals and cooking those meals (or not cooking them, in favor of something that sounds better/easier in the moment) and eating those meals and cleaning up those meals stretches before us.

While that doesn’t sound particularly appealing, I am feeling a tiny burst of energy about it all. The transition from indulgent holiday food to lighter, more regular meals feels refreshing. I spent a bunch of time this weekend looking through recipe blogs for new possibilities; it sometimes helps to have something New and Exciting – or at least New – to keep me out of the meal planning doldrums. I am going to lean into it while I can, before the inevitable drudgery of making meals day after day after day until death settles over me like a weighted blanket.

We did not make sticky toffee pudding yesterday, so that is back on the list for this weekend. (We did get food from my favorite Indian restaurant for dinner, and it was especially delicious. I would rather have chicken vindaloo ten times over than sticky toffee pudding, so it was a win for me. Plus, leftovers for lunch!)

This week, with Carla doing remote school (and therefore getting to sleep in a little later each morning), I am going to make an effort to have us all eat together. Normally, Carla eats dinner by herself at about 5:30 or 6:00, and my husband and I eat dinner around 8:00 or 8:30. Yes, I hate it, thanks. In an ideal world, we would eat together more often, giving us more family time together… and also giving us opportunities to model things like table manners and conversational skills and “trying new things” to Carla. I’m hoping my husband will get home early enough (people are canceling appointments right and left, which is Not Great Bob) that we can all eat together. This doesn’t mean I will be able to make one dinner for us all, of course, because I want Carla to actually eat something. But I can at least make similar foods (chicken nuggets or fish sticks when we have a saucy chicken or fish dish; raw versions of the veggies we eat) that I know she will eat, and add small portions of whatever my husband and I are eating to her plate. It is very challenging to have a picky child, especially since I am a picky eater myself, and I know how upsetting it can be to try new things. Plus, I know that deciding what to eat and what to refuse is one of the few things that Carla has autonomy over, and I don’t want to rob her of the ability to say no for so many reasons. But I also want her to eat more things than chicken nuggets and frozen peas and plain white rice, FOR THE LOVE OF COD.

Parenting quandary detour over.

There are only five meals on the plan for this week, to give us some wiggle room for last-minute additions or cravings.

Dinners for the Week of January 3-9

Chicken and Zucchini Stir Fry: You know by now that this is one of my favorite dinners. Plus it has a lot of vegetables, which means it fits in nicely with my “more veg” aspiration. Plus my husband suggested it; whether as a peace offering for not making the sticky toffee pudding or because he genuinely is in the mood, I don’t care because I love it. (My spell checker thinks that “peace” is misspelled in the previous sentence… though not in this one. Why are you messing with me, spell checker? Underlining a word I KNOW how to spell is making me question everything I thought I knew.) (It’s definitely not “piece offering,” right? RIGHT?)

Steak, Pepper, & Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry: I guess I am in a stir fry mood today? This is a new-to-me recipe and sounds different and yummy and veggie packed. I will probably ignore the steak, but my husband will eat it, and we have a package in the freezer at this very moment. Carla likes steak and (raw) sugar snap peas… I wonder if I can persuade her to eat this? Unlikely but I will try.

Follow Up: I loved this — it was such a nice change from our usual stir fries. My husband said it was too salty, though, and I don’t know how to change that since the sauce contains soy sauce. Carla ate a piece of the steak and a piece of the pepper and voted them too spicy (there is sriracha in the sauce as well), but she tried them! (She also ate a slice of beef tenderloin, a pile of raw sugar snap peas, a few slices of raw red pepper, and a big heap of rice.)

Honey-Garlic Glazed Salmon with Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts: Another aspiration is to get my family to eat more fish. I love fish. Carla used to LOVE salmon. But now she and my husband turn up their noses. Well, perhaps if I slather it in a sweet glaze?

Oven Baked Pork Chops with Steamed Broccoli: We will probably have some couscous alongside this old standby, which, incidentally, is another Husband SuggestedTM Meal.

Baked Tilapia with Coconut Cilantro Sauce with Sautéed Green Beans: Listen, there is NO WAY that Carla will even try this. But it sounds amazing and I think my husband will like it. Especially if I can find cod instead of tilapia.

What are you eating this week?

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It snowed last night! Our first Real Snow of the season! Woo hoo! So I’m feeling chatty.

I suppose this is just a regular old Friday randomosity, dressed up in slightly different clothes.

Being a Parent Sometimes Means Forcing Your Kid to Go to School Crying

Hoo boy we had a rough start to the day. Poor Carla woke up on the WRONG side of the bed. And, oh, how I empathize. That feeling of dozens of little angry crabs, skittering all over your skin and clamping their tiny sharp claws into your brain, is so familiar to me, and I have dealt with it hundreds of times over the years and STILL don’t know how to get through it without snapping at my husband and/or feeling wounded by any tiny slight and/or wanting nothing more than to climb back into bed and start over. But for Carla, it’s still a new experience. She just doesn’t GET cranky, and so it’s been a long time since she’s felt this way and she hasn’t yet figured out how to cope.

I tried to be empathetic – validating her feelings, lots of hugs, keeping my own frustration in check (we left the house TWENTY MINUTES LATE) – but matter-of-fact. Being cranky happens, and it feels rotten, and nonetheless we all have to go on with life and do the things we have to do. I tried to suggest some strategies for getting past the yucky feelings. (I tried not to sigh too loudly when she rejected them all.) And then I dropped her off at school, even though she was tearful and upset, and I am hoping hoping hoping that her day only goes up from here.

Okay, despite my anxiety about being That Mom, I sent an email to her teacher just to check on her. (Not sure what I will DO, if her teacher says she is still crying… go get her? That seems like both the Wrong Lesson and the Right Thing to Do.)

Cleaning Before the Cleaner Arrives, Helpful or Ridiculous?

One of the reasons Carla was cranky (I think) is because I gave her a Hard Choice this morning. She was supposed to tidy her bedroom and her bathroom last night, in preparation for the housecleaner. I reminded her twice. I asked her whether she’d done it, and she said yes. But then, well after she was asleep for the night, I had to go into her bathroom for something and discovered that she had NOT tidied the bathroom. The opposite, in fact: sodden Barbies lying facedown on the bath mat, a full Barbie swimming pool in the tub, toy catalog on the counter, hair ties and rocks (yes, rocks) on the floor, pajamas wadded up in the corner. I know that some people who have housecleaners believe that the housecleaner can handle stuff like this. And I’m sure our very capable housecleaner could. But it is my view that time spent tidying – especially tidying away toys and things whose homes you may not be aware of – takes precious time away from the CLEANING. For me, the value of the housecleaning is in the scrubbing of the toilet and the scouring of the bathtub and the mopping of the floor. Some people in our house may disagree but I FIRMLY AGREE with myself on this point. So Carla’s bathroom door has been shut tight and the housecleaner has been instructed to stay out, and Carla will be getting some hands-on experience with what I mean by TIDYING vs CLEANING because she will be doing both.

Okay, so I also gave the microwave a quick swipe (there was a Ham Incident the other day, which I mostly took care of at the time, but exploded ham bits are surprisingly evasive) and wiped down the stove top (I haven’t even MADE anything on the stove lately, WHY was it so FILTHY?) before our housecleaner arrived because I don’t want her to think we are total pigs.

Stepping Out on Your True Love: Will It Rekindle the Fire, or Cause the Relationship to Implode?

The thing I REALLY wanted to discuss with you, before all the morning’s crankiness and associated anxieties derailed me, is that I have had a Startling Revelation. I think I am growing weary of my one true love: tea.

I hope you took that paragraph break to allow the magnitude of this revelation to sink in. Because it has taken me a few weeks to come around to this understanding. Historically, I LOVE tea. Double Bergamot Earl Grey has been my faithful and delicious companion every weekday since I discovered it, with splurge days on the weekends when I drink my fancy Uncle Grey imported from Canada. Before that, I drank regular Earl Grey or English Breakfast. I can’t remember exactly when I started drinking tea, but I know that it has at LEAST been for eight years (one of my fondest memories from Carla’s first year of life is that my husband made me tea every single morning and brought it to me while I pumped), and probably for several years before that.

But these past few weeks, I’ve had waning enthusiasm for my tea. It doesn’t taste quite as good, I find myself dragging when I need to prepare it, I end up gulping it down to get it over with instead of savoring it. It’s just not giving me the joy that a warm morning cuppa should give a person.

I don’t think I can switch to other teas. I don’t really like most teas – the fruity kinds, no thank you. Rooibos and Chai are okay on occasion but not every day. I like green tea, but it doesn’t have the same comfort factor that Earl Grey does. Matcha is wonderful, but it requires so much milk and frothing and so on to make it the way I like it.

So NOW WHAT.

Today, I asked my husband to make a little extra coffee and so I am drinking that. It is… not good. It is too bitter, even with two packets of Sweet’n Low and my normal glug of half-and-half. When I am not drinking it, the inside of my mouth tastes metallic and sour, and I’m sure my breath is a delight. I made sure to eat a high-protein breakfast before I drank it, but I still feel like it’s making me jittery and a little queasy. How do people drink this every day?

I used to drink coffee. When I was eight, my mom brought home these beautiful bowls from France and she would make me café-au-lait for breakfast. When I went to her office after school, I would help myself to coffee and powdered creamer and many, many packets of sugar in the break room. During my first summer job during college, I would live for the few minutes when I could step away from filing and pour scalding coffee into a paper cup and doctor it until it was creamy and sweet. At some point in my life, I was a fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. So I have gone through multiple coffee drinking periods in the course of my life.

But I can’t say I ever really liked coffee. When I left it behind a decade or so ago, I intended never to return. Still, I don’t really want to get back into it, now. It would require too much sugar, for one thing. Too much half-and-half. Too much… amped-up quease. (I feel like the non-word “quease” evokes the feeling much better than the word-word “queasiness.”)

But what else IS there? I need a warm cup of something in the mornings! (PLEASE don’t say warm milk. Hork.)

Maybe I will drink coffee for a few days and then see if I have a newfound appreciation for tea. Or maybe I will find myself sucked into the coffee cult that has thoroughly brainwashed my husband and Lorelai Gilmore and so many others (maybe even you?).

Edited to add: It took me many hours to finish this post; distractions abound! So this is Future Me reporting back to you on today’s coffee sitch: I have still not finished my cup of coffee; my mug is still one-third full and the liquid is cold and my head feels powered by hummingbird wings and my stomach is a-sail on choppy seas. This is not a promising beginning.

A Strange and Unfamiliar Dilemma Arises!

This is not an actual problem.

We ordered our holiday cards on Sunday and they arrived ON WEDNESDAY. People, it is STILL NOVEMBER. This has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. I am absolutely delighted. (We ordered through Mpix.com – it was a great experience, through and through. The cards look great, even if adding a photo to a card and printing it didn’t make the awkward way I am holding my arm in said photo look any less awkward.)

But now I am facing a quandary: when do I send the cards? Part of me wants to send them NOW, get them off my desk (my office has become Holiday Storage Central, and is full of boxes that I can’t bear myself to throw away and gifts for people), and perhaps achieve the ever-elusive status of being someone’s First Holiday Card of the Season. (Our First Holiday Card of the Season usually arrives from one of the few high school friends I continue to talk to as an adult. I am anticipating it any day now.)

But the other part of me is resisting this. I don’t know why. Maybe because I am a firmly Wait Until After Thanksgiving holiday celebrant? Maybe because I don’t want to be first? Perhaps people will toss the card because it’s so early, or perhaps I am uncomfortable with the idea of MY awkwardly posed arm being on someone’s wall or mantel all alone for days or weeks? I don’t know. It seems too early!

Then again, Hanukkah is early this year, and begins the weekend after Thanksgiving. Part of the reason we send holiday cards instead of Christmas cards is because so many of our card recipients are Jewish. It would be nice for the holiday card to arrive DURING the holidays, rather than after them. (Although I doubt that any of our Jewish card recipients care all that much; Hanukkah isn’t really that big a deal, and they are likely inured to the tradition of getting “holiday” cards during Christmastime.)

All this to say: I am sort of leaning toward sending them out on December first. That puts them arriving solidly in December, and hopefully before Hanukkah ends.

You Can Bet I Filled Out the Customer Survey, and I Filled It Out GOOD

Yesterday saw me flitting about from store to store, running errands. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done something so carefree. I was looking for three specific things: 1. Candles for the menorah, which I did not find. 2. Ideas for a “giant crate filled with crafting supplies,” which was the top item on Carla’s letter to Santa. 3. A tiny, not-terribly-expensive salt and pepper shaker set that I can use when my parents are here; I did not find this, either. I did manage to spend a lot more money than my lack of success would imply.

Oh! Brief deviation from the topic, which I haven’t even GOTTEN to yet: I thought it was so fascinating to see how differently stores are handling the pandemic. Many stores had signs on their entrances, but I don’t think any of them were the same. “Masks required” said one, with a sentence below in smaller print citing CDC recommendations. “Masks recommended for unvaccinated individuals” said another. “Masks optional” said a third, which is similar to the second, but conveys a very different vibe.

One of the stores I visited was Target. I haven’t been in Target in a long while, partly because I haven’t needed anything from Target in a long time and partly because I love, with my whole heart, the option to order my items online and have someone deliver them to my car. CURBSIDE 4EVA.

It was sort of pleasant and nostalgic to wander around Target for awhile. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I could see with my own eyes that they were, in fact, completely out of Carla’s size in fleece-lined leggings. (I don’t know why I keep buying them, because holes sprout in the knees practically immediately.) (I do know why: they are cheap.)

I narrowly avoided buying any of the cute Christmassy appetizer plates they had for $3 apiece. I am beginning to think that was a mistake.

I was not able to resist the miniature office supplies set, which will make its way into Carla’s stocking.

image from target.com

But when I checked out, I reconnected with one of my biggest peeves about Target. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve complained about it before. But my peeve has been so inflamed that I am going to complain about it again.

When you checkout, there is almost NO WAY to see whether you are being charged appropriately for each item. Long, long ago, so long ago that I am willing to admit it may be a figment of my wildest dreams, you could go up to the credit card reader, and it would show you what you were buying in real time, as the checker scanned your items. No more. Now, if you have even a small hope of glimpsing what the computer says you owe, you have to stand back at the conveyor belt – which makes it very awkward to fill your cart as the checker bags your items – and squint at the computer screen facing the checker. Facing the checker, not facing YOU. And the type is so small that you have very little hope of seeing the price of each item anyway. In larger type is the total of your purchase, but that requires instantaneous math, and I am not good at that in the best of times, less so when I am in public.

We all know that Target makes errors. It is OFTEN that an item will scan at a different price than is displayed on the shelf. And the placement of the computer makes it nearly impossible to know that this is happening.

Also, the only way to know the total you are about to pay is to listen carefully to the checker, who has to say it out loud to you. It does not even give a total on the card reader! This is madness!

HARUMPH.

I did get a customer survey in my email later that day, which I took great pleasure in filling out. Not that it will do a lick of good.

Suspected Shipping Snafu Turned Sweet Surprise!

A box from amazon arrived the other day, as is an all-too-frequent occurrence in these days leading up to the holidays. (I am trying to wean myself off of amazon, I AM, but it is difficult.)

The box was addressed to me; I was expecting some fleece-lined leggings I’d ordered for Carla, to replace her hole-y Target ones. So I opened it.

Inside was a smaller box, with a label that said “lidded casserole.”

This was something I had JUST THE DAY BEFORE put on a list of Christmas wishes that I had shared with my husband. My guess what that he had accidentally sent it to me because I am the intended recipient. So I sighed and put it back in the box, resolving to be So! Surprised! when it appeared under the tree on Christmas Day.

But when he came home, he swore he hadn’t ordered one for me.

Turns out it was a thank-you gift from his parents! When they were here, I’d mentioned that I was constantly on the lookout for a medium sized casserole dish… and my mother-in-law remembered and sent me TWO!

What a fun and thoughtful surprise!

That’s the note I’ll end on. Well, and this additional note, from Carla’s teacher, that she arrived to class her cheerful, happy self. PHEW.

Hope you have a lovely weekend, Internet!

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Compare my lovely, carefree Wednesday morning with Carla to this one, during which my voice grew firmer and louder the later we got, and I repeated myself a hundred different times about a hundred different things, and I got in a really great workout of my sighing muscles, and we left the house at the time we were supposed to be AT school and it was only at that very moment of leaving, when Carla had FINALLY tied her shoes, that I noticed she had a hole in one knee of her leggings. (She went to school with the hole.) At one point, Carla said, “Don’t YELL at me, Mommy!” and I wanted to yell, “THIS IS NOT YELLING. WE HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO YELLING YET THROUGH A MASSIVE ACT OF WILL POWER.” Oh well. You can’t win them all. 

The skin of my face has also decided once again to turn on me. You will recall that I made the grave error of experimenting with anti-aging lotions and potions, and, after ONE application of such, my skin hissed at me that I WILL age and if I ever so much as LOOK at a product containing retinol again I will find myself wishing I never even had a face. I returned to the very gentle products I have been using for YEARS without incident, and, eventually, my skin calmed down. But today I awoke with red, raw, itchy cheeks, and the underside of my bottom lip is itchy and so puffy I look as though I’m recovering from a botched lip implant. (Though I can assure you that I will not be experimenting with fillers and Botox, based on the reaction I got from NEUTROGENA PRODUCTS.) I don’t know WHAT the deal is – I have not deviated from my routine, nor have I used any new detergents or pressed my face into any unusual fibers – but man am I glad that I can wear a mask in public to keep my lip from view. 

Mask usage is still robust in my area, but every time I venture into a public space, more and more people are bare-facing it. Devil-may-care that I am, I went to BOTH Target and the grocery store today. Inside! I’d say a good thirty percent of the people in Target were bare faced, including some employees. There were fewer people without masks at the grocery store, but SOME, which was shocking after seeing maybe a scant handful of unmasked customers in the past year. I understand, logically, that it is okay to go without a mask now that I am fully vaccinated. Even if a bunch of unvaccinated people are also going maskless (as we all know they probably are). The science is very clear that I should be FINE. That I am unlikely to contract Covid-19, and that I am unlikely to pass it on to my daughter, who is herself unlikely to contract Covid-19 and, if she does manage to do so, is unlikely to suffer from a severe case. I know all this logically. But it’s very hard to counter an entire year-plus of vigilant mask-wearing, an entire year-plus of purposeful separation from other humans, an entire year-plus of focusing solely on keeping my family safe through the power of masks and distance and isolation with simple logic. 

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Important note: Carla has recently discovered that she likes sourdough bread, and especially so if it is toasted and coated in butter. She refers to this as “sour toast” which is its name henceforth and forevermore.

This morning I helped myself to two (2) healthy slabs of sour toast, which was small compensation for a night that was not in the least bit restful. 

The troubles began at tennish when my husband and I were laughing heartily along to Derry Girls – if you, like me, are very behind on Good Shows, please note that so far this one is Very Good – and my daughter poked her head into the kitchen to inform us that she was (metaphorical ironic jazz hands) still! awake! 

First, we allowed her to come snuggle with us on the couch. We carried on a silent conversation with our eyes about whether we should turn the TV back on and see if she would simply fall asleep there; that has worked exactly once in the past. (We decided against it. Not only has it only ever worked once, but this show also uses curse words with great gusto and Carla is at an age where she loves to say, “Did that person say the f-word Mommy? Why did they say the f-word?” except she likes to USE the f-word because it is a Sanctioned Circumvention of the no-cursing rule.) In the end, we took her back to her room and did all the soothing, get-back-to-bed things – set up a lamp that shed more light than a nightlight but less light than the one on her bedside table, adjusted her covers for optimum temperature, played some spa music on her ipad, lots of hugs and kisses and reassurance that she could leave her room if she was still asleep in half an hour – and went back to Derry Girls

As a totally unnecessary aside, that I still feel I need to share as Important Background, the “you can come tell us in thirty minutes if you are still awake” directive stems from a night earlier this year. Carla woke up at midnight and then proceeded to try to get herself back to sleep – which I commend! – for TWO HOURS until she finally came to me for help. At that point, I didn’t think it was advisable to give her melatonin (why? because it was the middle of the night and my reasoning faculties were sleep-logged), PLUS she was already so awake that there was no getting back to sleep at all. I tried ALL my get-back-to-sleep techniques (including rubbing her back and singing her lullabies) for an hour before we finally gave up and went downstairs and turned on the TV. If she had come to me at midnight when she first woke up, or at 12:30 when she’d given getting back to sleep a good solid go, a) I would have been more likely to be awake and b) I would definitely have given her melatonin. Anyway. Now she has a thirty minute limit to how long she needs to lie awake by herself. 

She did indeed return after thirty minutes. It was by now eleven. 

This time, I gave her melatonin and crawled into bed with her and rubbed her back. She was very chatty for a child who should have been asleep for three hours at that point. It was upsetting to hear her have the same thoughts that I have when I can’t sleep: if I don’t sleep NOW, I will only get X hours of sleep! What if I never fall asleep? What if I am tired tomorrow? I tried to reassure her that it totally doesn’t matter if she doesn’t even sleep at ALL (no school), and that she will feel tired but that’s okay. We can have a low-key day and/or take a nap and/or go to bed early. That seemed to smooth out some of the rumply anxious feelings, so I went to bed and read and tried not to worry that every sound was Carla popping out of bed to tell me she was still awake (semi-frantic metaphorical jazz hands).

At around midnight, the thunder started, so of course Carla popped into our room, this time awake but also Scared Of Thunder and worrying about power outages and whether we would have to relocate to the basement. 

(Did you do this, growing up? Pretty much any time we had a thunderstorm when I was a kid, we’d load up armfuls of blankets and pillows and stuffed animals and flashlights and head into the basement to wait it out. This may be because of Tornado Concern, although my memory is fuzzy on the details. Anyway, it’s still my immediate response to a severe storm: get to the basement!) (My husband did not have the same childhood experience of storms, nor is he remotely concerned about weather, so we occasionally have Heated Discussions about whether we need to go to the basement or not. Carla has probably overheard those discussions, which is probably why she was so concerned about it.) (Our current, finished, carpeted-with-couches-and-a-TV basement is a MUCH nicer place to wait out a storm. My childhood basement was unfinished and we used to gather in the exercise room, which had a concrete floor, a Nordic Track, a stationary bike, and a set of weight lifting equipment. It did have a small, old-fashioned-even-for-the-time black-and-white-TV.) 

Carla set up a little nest of blankets on our bedroom floor and eventually we all fell asleep. But I was awakened throughout the night by very obnoxious wind. 

Possibly because of Tornado Fear, I really hate wind. And I know that some parts of the country experienced tornadoes last night, which is devastating, and my heart goes out to the people who lost their property and homes and loved one. I feel deeply grateful for (currently) being safe in my own home, with my family, and working electricity. But I also know that the whims of catastrophe could descend upon us at any time – it is purely luck that we haven’t encountered a devastating event yet.

So every time the wind shook the gate next to my bedroom, or sent a bucket of rain slamming into the window, I would jerk into wakefulness and lie there, shaking, desperately scrolling through the radar section of my weather app, trying to determine from the little moving blobs of color whether we were nearing the end of the storm or whether tornadoes were imminent, and wondering if we have a local tornado siren, and wondering if the neighbor’s tree – which scrapes shriekingly against their siding in even a gentle breeze – is going to snap off and pierce the wall beside my bed, and, if so, would it reach my husband and leave Carla an orphan or just impale me. 

Of course, today also happens to be Trash Day, so I would wake up at any sound of the trash bins flapping, alert to the possibility that the recycling bin would topple over and spill cans and bottles and cardboard boxes all over the street. Would I emerge from my house to find my neighbors judging the number of pickle jars and wine bottles and cans of tomato puree I use in a week? And just how many Target boxes does one person need, really? (Not as many as Target thinks I need, that’s for sure.) Would I be chasing down soda cans and peeling soggy medical journals off my driveway all morning? 

The arrhythmic crescendo and decrescendo of the wind – plus the addition of the normal slam and clang of the garbage trucks making their rounds – finally tore me away from any semblance of sleep at about six. I lay there worrying about things like power outages (mainly, the prospect of losing all the frozen meat and veggies in my freezer) and insurance coverage (based on previous snow/wind destruction, we are already pretty sure insurance doesn’t cover damage to our arborvitae, but would it pay to replace the swingset?) and the possibility of tornadoes and some additional really dark, upsetting things until seven when a particularly lusty gust sent the now-empty garbage bins tumbling down the street. Ours were in the middle of the road and had to be moved immediately, which gave me an excuse (as opposed to doing something healthy like getting up to write or exercise or ANYTHING else besides worry endlessly) to get out of bed and start the day. 

We have a huge oak in the backyard that is perfect roof-crushing size and distance from our house. Until recently, I had never considered that it posed a threat to our neighbors’ homes as well – I suppose it could do some damage, but I don’t think it would crush the entire roof right over the sleeping inhabitants’ heads as it would if it fell on our house. In any case, earlier this month, we had an arborist come out and prune it. We’d set this appointment up in August, although I don’t have the faintest idea whether that’s a reasonable timeframe for securing the services of an arborist.

On the long-awaited day, two giant trucks arrived, carrying at least four people. But only two people emerged from the trucks – one to talk to me about the plan, and the other to execute the plan. The plan executor used a series of ropes and pulleys to climb up our tree, seemingly on his own – the other three people were nowhere in sight during his ascent or descent or pretty much at all in between; I guess mainly they moved the cut branches from our backyard to the front yard – and somehow carrying a chainsaw, and it all made me deeply uncomfortable. The entire time he was here, I kept darting from window to window, taking photographs and marveling at how many branches he extracted and trying to keep him firmly in the tree with the power of my brain.

This is an objectively terrible photo but it DOES capture a) man in tree, b) CHAINSAW, c) DANGLING, d) no one around to offer any sort of support, moral or otherwise, e) all the branches. And it gives you some sense of how tall the tree is, with a good thirty percent of the tree missing from the top of the photo..

I sent one of the photos to my husband – a photo of the man in the tree – and made a dumb joke about how the squirrels were really out of control this spring, har har. But then later, when the human arborist told me that our backyard squirrel (Howard, we call the squirrel Howard) was quite irate with him (human) for tampering with HIS (squirrel) tree, and I passed that information along to my husband (human), he (husband) was very confused about which squirrels in which situations were real or human. I didn’t think it was that confusing, but I was the one relaying the story. And the one referring to a human person (arborist) as a squirrel.  

The arborist cut off a LOT of dead branches. That’s what one of the two giant trucks was for – turning the branches into woodchips and hauling them away. (I have no idea what the other truck was for. Medical supplies, in case the arborist fell out of the tree?) With the oak being so tall, the size of the branches is disguised by distance. But once they were on the ground, it was clear just how enormous and abundant they were. I wish I had taken better photographs of just how many branches there were. (I felt ridiculous, scurrying around from window to window, trying to get good shots without alerting the arborist to my paparazzing.) 

After he was done pruning, the arborist also “sounded” (?) the trunk and examined any wounds on the tree, and declared that the tree was healthy and not in danger of falling on my house and crushing me while I sleep. That was, as you might imagine, a relief. 

But it turns out that even a healthy, de-branched oak does not prevent me from hating the wind. 

I keep wanting to find out exactly how gusty these gusts are, and then find out what the typical gusts were during my childhood, and compare them. As though I could say, in a tone of slightly-exasperated reassurance, “Okay, Self, these are only 60-mile-per-hour gusts, when the typical gales you experienced in childhood were 75 miles per hour.” and that would completely soothe my galloping pulse and send me immediately into a deep, untroubled slumber. 

When, in fact, it’s just different. We live in a crowded suburb surrounded by lots of large trees and other potential projectiles (lawn furniture, standing umbrellas, garbage bins, mailboxes) while then I was in my lone house on top of a barren hill, with only a handful of immature pines nearby. Plus, then I was a child, and I had the luxury of parents who could offer comfort, who could also carry the burden of worrying whether we would lose power and two freezers full of food, and of hoping fervently that our insurance covers wind damage, and of listening to the weather station with an ear out for the portent of tornadoes, and of deciding whether it was time to gather in the basement. Now I am the adult, with all of those anxieties to shoulder, while still maintaining an outward expression of competent calm, for the sake of the child who is already beset by so many hand-me-down worries she can’t sleep even before the wind starts blowing.

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Today is the last week day of Spring Break. (Our spring break was two weeks long; we went out of town for one of those weeks.) (The first week went by MUCH more quickly than the second week has.)

Since my husband is on call, I have two remaining days of entertaining Carla, and then she is back to school on Monday. It has been a long week, through no fault of Carla’s. But I am not cut out for two weeks of spring break. Nor for being solely responsible for entertaining my child. Why yes, I am one of those people who says I need a vacation from my vacation.

  • It is no secret that I am an introvert. And being a parent has only heightened my need for alone time, I think. Not because I don’t enjoy being with Carla. On the contrary: I love spending time with her, and I especially love it when I have enough energy to plan and do fun things with her. But I need time to myself. It is essential for my mental well-being. Normally, after spending a lovely, fun-filled week with my husband and child, in-laws, sister, and niece (as we did last week), I would prefer to close myself in my office with my computer, some tea, and maybe some Reese’s peanut butter eggs and not talk to ANYONE for a good three days. This is not hyperbole. I am 100% serious. Instead, this week, I had my lovely energetic and talkative child at home with me all day every day. I also had multiple appointments scheduled, because I figured they would help break up the time. Instead, I ended up compounding the problem by needing to interact with additional people. By today, I am DONE. I have a friend who is returning from spring break tomorrow who wants to get our kids together and I cannot FATHOM such an idea. I cannot wait until Monday when I am going to drop Carla off at school, come home, and sit in my office silently All. Day. Long. I am even dreading the social interaction that will come with drop off. Since it was a long break, Carla’s teachers sent the kids home with everything in their cubbies so the classroom could undergo a good thorough cleaning. So Carla has a bunch of stuff to take with her, which means I will need to walk with her to her classroom. And that means running into parents – parents I like! and am friendly with! and want to talk to! – who will want to chat about spring break. I don’t think I can do it, Internet.

Matcha latte

Reese’s peanut butter egg not pictured because I am brashly using an old photo from a previous post.

  • I’m afraid Carla has had a pretty boring spring break. I am trying really hard not to feel too guilty about it. We have been spending time together and playing together every day. And she did have a WHOLE WEEK of sunshine and grandparents and swimming pool and cousin. But I do worry that she’ll grow up and remember how I kept her closed up in the house for spring break and all she did was watch TV. (That is NOT all we’ve done! We’ve gone bike riding! And for walks! And to the grocery store twice! And we went out for donuts one morning! And to the library! And to Tuesday Morning and Kohl’s! Okay, okay, so it’s not the most exciting roundup of things, and, yes, there was definitely some TV in there, but we Did Things.)

Donut

This was Carla’s donut. I ate mine too fast to photograph it.

  • Playdates are not the solution. Perhaps you are giving me the side-eye, because this half of the break would have been much better and more enjoyable for Carla if I had managed to set up some playdates. This was my husband’s feeling, in fact. However, the execution is not quite so simple. First of all, the vast majority of our friends are also on spring break, in exotic locations like Australia and Bermuda. By “our friends” I mean families that have a kid that Carla knows and likes and a parent that I know and like. Second of all, of the families that are or may be in town, they all have multiple kids. And I really still don’t “get” how to do playdates with those families. If you invite one kid, are you automatically inviting ALL of the kids in the family? Seems like that’s only fair. But that means a playdate at my house isn’t a great idea; our house is small and we don’t really have toys for non-five-year-olds. Plus I am not of a mental state to have a bunch of people in my house (see above re: introvert). Which means that out-of-the-house playdates would be the best solution, but… that requires planning. And THAT’s exhausting. What can we do? Where can we go? Can I really handle chasing my kid and her friend and possible siblings through the natural history museum? Do I really want to drive 30 minutes to the indoor playground? It’s been rainy the past couple of days, so outdoor playgrounds are out. And most of these families are people I’m not super familiar with. There’s one friend Carla would love to play with, but I have never met either of her parents. It is so hard to gear myself up for meeting a brand-new person on a regular basis, and I am definitely not up for it this week, when I have already exhausted my small-talk stores on conversations with my in-laws. I don’t think sitting across from another parent, staring blankly and fretfully into the ether as I try to think of something halfway interesting to say, would make such a great impression. So! Nothing it is!

 

  • Plus, as I mentioned, I have already shot myself in the foot by scheduling additional adult interactions this week. The window madness continues, for instance. A friend had recommended someone she’d worked with, and he – no longer at the window company – had passed my name on to someone else who still works there. Apparently my friend had told him how frustrated I’ve been with the Hard Sales tactics, so they sent me their lowest pressure person very best salesman. And truly, he was excellent. I know that he was using tried and true sales tactics, just as the other salesmen had done. But his were invisible. By the time he left – THREE HOURS LATER OMG – I was completely sold on the idea of fiberglass windows, when before I had only wanted to consider vinyl. And I was willing to strongly entertain his bid, which was three times as high as several of the other window people I’d met with. He was that good. And he was very nice, as have been all the other window salespeople I’ve talked to. But THREE HOURS is much too long to be talking to a stranger, feigning interest in Window Facts that you’ve heard several times already, wondering how many times you need to offer someone water/soda/a sandwich over the course of three hours, and deflecting bored-child questions. When it was over, I felt mentally drained. And of course, my poor aforementioned bored child had to watch TV the entire time because when it was off, she kept interrupting. And this guy wasn’t really a Kid Person, so he had no idea how to interact with/deflect her, and kept getting flustered when she’d do something totally normal, like ask why the window he brought was so small or volunteer that we’d had donuts for breakfast or complain, “WHEN is he going to LEAVE?” After I discussed things with my husband, I remembered that our house is not a three-times-as-high-as-other-window-bids kind of place, and I have one more  window sales call to endure before we either make a decision or I run screaming into the sea.
  • As our one non-shopping excursion this week, we went to a Cat Café. If you are wondering what a Cat Café is, it is an establishment that has a tiny coffee-shop space on one side, and then a much larger Cat Habitat on the other, and people can pay to spend time with the cats. It recently opened in a nearby town, and I knew Carla would be over the moon to go. And the weather was obligingly dreadful, so there would be no bike riding or playing on the backyard playset. We had to make a reservation, and when we arrived there was a long line of other cat fans so I’m glad we didn’t try to wing it. The café part was truly minuscule. You could order coffee or tea and the staff would bring it to you in the cat habitat; we didn’t order anything; I would be terrified that I’d spill tea on a cat. The cat habitat was like an enormous living room, with lots of human seating and bookcases and tons of cat-friendly apparati to climb on and play with.

Cat cafe1

That orange cat didn’t budge from his perch the entire time, even when a tween-age boy started throwing cat toys at him to “get his attention.” And this may be the closest you’ll ever get to seeing a picture of me on this blog, so savor it, Internet.

Carla was the youngest person there that day, and I discovered that she doesn’t really GET cats. She loves them, that’s clear. And I don’t know why I’d expect her to GET cats, when she hasn’t spent any time around them outside of Pet Smart.  But she thought they would be snuggly and friendly in the way that dogs are. Oh, Carla. Cats are SO not dogs. She immediately went up to a cat that was playing with one of the café staff members (who was in the habitat with us the whole time, introducing the cats, telling us about their personalities and backgrounds, trying to get them to be playful) and tried to pet it, and the cat, who was in the middle of playing, bit her on the arm. She was FINE, it didn’t break the skin. But of course she was surprised and betrayed and it probably hurt a bit and so she cried for quite a while. I took her to the bathroom to wash her arm and tried to talk to her about how cats are. Independent. Feisty. Unpredictable. Claws and teeth. I’d done a little of that before, but it’s one thing for your mom to drone on and on about cats in the car and another to be confronted, face to face, with a cat-being-a-cat. She calmed down and we went back in and eventually she got some cats to chase balls and attack little cloth fish and she even got to pet some of them. She was much more interested in playing with the cats; I would have preferred to have a big purring cat on my lap, but they were (understandably) a little wary of all these new humans milling about and seemed more interested in playing, hissing at each other, or sleeping in nooks that humans couldn’t reach.

Cat cafe 3

This cat was very amenable to receiving scritches and pats.

I wasn’t sure that it was a successful visit. There was the rocky beginning. And not a single cat snuggled with us. We were there for an hour, though, which was enough time for the shock of being bitten to wear off. By the end of our appointment, Carla was begging me to take her back. We’ll see. I think it would be much more satisfying if it were just you (and your kid) and the cats, rather than being one of twelve additional people. But it was still a fun, novel experience.

Cat cafe2

All the books were cat themed, as was the decor.

  • One of the other ways I tried to Make Things Fun this week was by throwing a couple of Movie Nights into the spring break mix. Movie Night, Movie Afternoon, whatever. We’d make popcorn and snuggle up and Carla was pretty delighted by that. I think we may make Movie Nights a weekly event, she seems to get such a kick out of them. One of the movies we watched was the live action 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close and Joley Richardson and… Jeff… Not Bridges… Jeff… Daniels. Jeff Daniels. I don’t know why I get them mixed up. Oh! And Hugh Laurie is in there as well, pre-House days, I guess. This movie is from 2000, but it holds up pretty well. There are some mildly violent acts – Home Alone style. And some salty language (you, know, like “butt” and “shut up” – nothing too outlandish). Glenn Close is fantastic as Cruella De Vil. Her outfits alone make the movie worth watching; she wears press-on nails on the OUTSIDE of her gloves! And the whole time I was watching it, I was marveling at a) the sheer number of animals featured in the film and b) the dogs’ (in particular) stellar acting ability. Pongo is one well-trained pupper, that’s for sure. It was an entertaining movie, but the part that I found most scoff-worthy is that the Joley Richardson and Jeff Not-Bridges characters meet and then immediately, on their first “date,” decide to get married. I mean. What?! I get the whole love-at-first-sight thing. And falling in reckless, lifelong love seems perfectly acceptable for DALMATIANS, or, like, animated characters like Anna and Hans (although at least in that movie, Elsa and Kristof both object strenuously to getting engaged to a stranger) but… come on. Seems like a lazy way to move the plot forward. Couldn’t they have already been married… and then Pongo spots Perdita out at some adopt-a-thon event, and that’s how the dogs get together? Or maybe both dogs live at Joley Richardson’s house and Jeff Not-Bridges visits them as he’s getting to know Joley? Well. Aside from that ridiculously unbelievable plot point (yes, more unbelievable than animals talking to each other), it was a very enjoyable flick.

Dalmatians

photo from amazon.com

  • Did you know that there are no Os in the word “Dalmatians”? I did not, until I just wrote the bullet above.

 

  • I am really looking forward to getting back to my writing next week. Two weeks away from my work in progress is a LONG time. I did work on a story while I was out of town – a continuation of a story I started writing last year over spring break. But it feels like a distraction from the main project rather than anything meaningful.

 

  • And now, I must go start on The Folding of the Spring Break Laundry. I have been very successful in washing the clothing. Where I have been less successful is in the folding, which is really the ABSOLUTE WORST.

Laundry

My personal shame.

Did you have spring break this year? If so, did you do anything fun?

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The day is not off to a good start.

Part of it is actual, part of it is mental, part of it is diet-al.

Part the first: I have managed to make my child simultaneously hate school and believe that her teachers are going to be mad at her if she isn’t perfect. We had parent teacher conferences last week, and her teachers mentioned a couple of things Carla needed to work on. And I mentioned those things to her, and we talked about some strategies, and she got really cranky and irritable with me and then we moved on. We had a lovely weekend. This morning, she waltzed into my room in one of her signature amazing ensembles (purple pants, pink shirt, faux leopard fur vest, sparkly headband) in a happy mood and snuggled with me until my alarm went off. I reminded her this morning about what we had discussed, and it was like flipping a switch. All of a sudden she was hot and would I take her temperature. No fever. She was really tired and naptime at school is way too far away so she wants to stay home. She doesn’t want to go to school. She’s NOT going to school. I tried to figure out what the deal was – she LOVES school; over the weekend, we drove past her school and the parking lot was full and she said “No fair! Those kids get to be there on the weekend!” – and eventually got out of her that she thinks she won’t be able to do what we discussed and her teachers will be mad at her. So. No school. She’s done.

Well shit.

I tried everything in my Mommy Toolkit to persuade her: Assurance: We don’t expect you to be perfect, we expect you to try your best. Your teachers love you. Here are all the wonderful things they told me about you at the conference. Here are all the things for which your father and I are so proud of you. Bribery: If you go to school today, you get to do X! I will let you bring your horse in the car on the way to school! If you still feel bad at school, you can go to the nurse and she will call me to come get you! Logic: School is your job, you have to go. If Daddy didn’t want to go to work, what would happen? It’s a law that kids your age have to go to school. Mild threats: If you don’t go, here are all the fun things you will miss. If you stay home, you will be bored; no TV, I have work to do so I can’t play with you. And – bringing out the big guns – I will make you go on ERRANDS with me. She was undeterred.

Finally, after assuring her for the ten thousandth time that neither her teachers nor I would be mad at her, that none of us expects her to be PERFECT, that we just want her to TRY… After singing her the Daniel Tiger song about “your best is the best for you”… After coming up with some specific strategies to try with her teachers… FINALLY, I got her out the door. We were thirty-five minutes late.

And then, when I was telling her teacher about the strategies we had discussed and explaining what had happened, I of course burst into tears. Because nothing makes a Bad Parenting Morning worse than leaking it all over your child’s poor teacher. The only saving grace was that we were so late, there weren’t many other parents lingering in the halls to see me blubbering.

Man, I really screwed things up. And I don’t know exactly HOW, or exactly how to fix it, or how to do it differently. And she still needs to work on the things she needs to work on, although obviously they are not DIRE. (Though I managed to get poor Carla to feel that they ARE dire.) And my heart just feels so RAW for her, because she is working so hard at growing up – so, so hard – and she wants to please us and her teachers so badly, and she is so much more sensitive than sometimes even I realize. And of all people in the world, I should be the one who KNOWS what she needs and understands how to get through to her without screwing her up and I DON’T.

So that’s the actual.

The mental is the crushing certainty that I am the absolute worst choice of person to be a parent. And that nonetheless I have to do it anyway. And at stake are my child’s PERMANENT HAPPINESS AND WELL BEING.

There is also the outward spiraling, wherein I begin to feel that everything else in life is terrible too: our house is falling apart, I can’t keep up with the to-do list, I am failing as a writer. You know. One bit of the scaffolding gets knocked in and the whole structure comes tumbling down.

Then there’s the diet-al, which is stupid and I should just QUIT because it’s making me miserable. I have a constant headache. I feel nauseated and my brain seems to be going at half speed. I am not particularly hungry or missing foods all that much, but I do have a rather abnormally intense fixation on Diet Coke.

You can see how this all adds up to a bad morning so far.

Two things I am using to try to pull myself out of this negativity quicksand:

  1. The diet is over as of Thursday morning. I will be celebrating with a big bowl of pasta and a thick slice of cake.
  2. I have a pedicure scheduled with a friend for Friday, which should be relaxing and my friend and I will get to chat and catch up.

And between me, my husband, and Carla’s teachers, we should be able to figure out how to redirect her perfectionism… somehow? Right?

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Poor Carla is just off  lately. Saturday she ate practically nothing – some bacon and a tomato from her BLT at lunch, a handful of fries; a peanut butter sandwich at our friends’ house that night – and then she ate a great lunch yesterday but literally NOTHING for dinner. Not a single bite. She requested instead to go to bed. But then she woke up at 11:30 and could NOT fall back to sleep. She was up until well past two. Two a.m. in the morning. And if by “she was up” you are assuming that maybe I was sleeping, no. I was reading Harriet the Spy and playing YouTube “spa music” and fetching water and taking her temperature and reading old favorite picture books and giving her Tylenol because her “neck” hurt when she swallowed and making a “nest” in my room beside my bed and lying quietly in the dark and hissing at Carla in my most soothing way to just be STILL and close your EYES.

No surprise that she was dragging this morning. She didn’t eat as much for breakfast as I thought (hoped) she would – most of her smoothie, one French toast stick – and was just kind of slow. Which could be tired slow. Or not-feeling-great slow. Or just plain old Kindergarten Slow. Who knows.

Why is so much of parenting so unknowable? That’s what I’m bemoaning this morning. I mean, I get it. There’s no handbook. No two kids are alike. Yada yada blah. But I have had this particular kid for nearly six whole years so you’d think I’d at least have the hang of dealing with her by now. But you’d have thought incorrectly, I’m sorry to say. (Mainly sorry for me, not so much for you and your misplaced faith in my supposed parenting “ability.”)

There are so many QUESTIONS. And I have answers to SO FEW of them! Sure, some things, like “should she be holding that sharp knife?” and “should I give her a hug?” have simple answers. But so many do NOT.

Some of the questions for which I do not have answers just TODAY:

  • Is “not eating dinner” a totally acceptable thing once in a while, or does it indicate something is WRONG?
  • Does a repeated claim that a child has a headache indicate an actual headache… or is it a bid for attention… or is it a parroting of my own not-infrequent headaches and therefore a cautionary tale against complaining too much about my own minor aches and pains… or is it a way to divert attention away from the not-eating?
  • And if there IS a headache, is it a normal Everyone-Gets-Headaches-Sometimes headache or does it indicate something is WRONG? And how do you know the difference?
  • How in the world do I stopper the effervescent frustration of Slow Child Not Moving Quickly Enough When We Need to Get to School on Time FOR THE LOVE before I burst forth with a Mean Mom snarl of PUT YOUR COAT ON OMG?
  • If there is no fever, and no REAL reason to keep a child home – especially when everyone seems to think that a snow day or two is imminent this week, based on predicted temperatures – is it really okay to send her to school? Even though this guilty feeling keeps nagging me like a staticky sock stuck to a pant leg?

This is not to mention all of the day-to-day questions I have, including but not limited to:

  • How much screen time is REALLY acceptable? And if my kid squeezes it all into the weekends, does that make it better or worse?
  • How am I ever going to get her to tie her shoes? I don’t want to buy shoes with laces until she knows how to tie them; cod knows I’m not going to tie them for her. But how is she going to learn until I buy her shoes with laces? DILEMMA.
  • Should we be FaceTime-ing with relatives more often?
  • Is my kid’s behavior around other adults totally typical of her age, or something I need to be more on top of correcting? (Things like not answering when being spoken to, sticking out her tongue or otherwise being playful, ignoring them totally and wandering off…)
  • Am I preparing her well enough for Real Life? While still allowing her to enjoy the freedom and innocence of childhood?
  • Is she really going to lose ALL her teeth? And how am I going to handle the horror that is a piece of my child’s bone hanging by a slim bloody tether from her gums MORE TIMES?
  • Do I read to her enough?
  • Do I play with her enough?
  • Does she have enough time to play?
  • How many stuffed animals are too many stuffed animals?
  • Are my expectations too high? Not high enough?
  • Am I giving her enough intellectual stimulation? Social? Physical? Creative?
  • Am I teaching her good eating habits?
  • Am I a good enough role model?
  • Is she getting enough sleep?
  • Is she happy?
  • How many ways am I failing her?

I don’t know if you are aware, but this parenting thing is EXHAUSTING. It’s like taking a midterm exam every single DAY and knowing that you haven’t studied enough and you are pretty iffy on big chunks of the material. But you don’t get a grade now  – oh no, you have to take 4,560 more exams just between now and when your kid presumably heads off to college. And they’re really important but there’s no way to know if you’re just squeaking by with a C average or totally bombing. That’s the hardest part, right? I could be TOTALLY SCREWING HER UP and I won’t know until she’s an adult.

I am going to go treat this bout of parenting angst with some melted cheese and maybe consider a nap. How’s that for being a role model, hmm?

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