Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bad Mom in Toddler Town: A wake-up call

I've been reading up on toddlers in hopes of better understanding my soon-to-be three year old, Cameron. He's our third son, but he's so unlike the others that I feel like a first-timer (hence my brilliant plan to escape to a teepee). He's sensitive, dramatic and fiercely independent.

FIERCELY.

Like most toddlers, he's also prone to meltdowns.

Instead of having a game plan, I've been shooting from the hip with him—and failing miserably. I've gone to that gross Bad Mom spot way too often. Not the cute, funny spot where you drink wine and chuckle with other moms and say, "I'm such a bad mom because I let him wear his pants backwards," but the real, brutally honest Bad Mom spot where you stare at your tear-stained face in the mirror and question your motives for procreating.

The one where you say to yourself, "I HAVE to do better." And even more important, "WE as a family have to do better."

Junior is 10 and Everett is seven. The age range is a tough one. Every time Cam comes running to play with them, they put up their arms and yell, "I'm playing! Don't touch!"

He cries.

Every time Cam is too rough with the cat or dog, they yell, "STOP IT!"

He cries.

Every time Cam is too rough with Junior or Everett, Chuck and I yell, "STOP IT!"

He cries.

It sounds like this:

YELL, YELL, YELL. STOP IT. (CRYING.)

YELL, YELL, YELL. STOP IT. (CRYING.)

YELL, YELL, YELL. STOP IT. STOP IT. (CRYING.) YELLING. (CRYING.)


The low point came this weekend. Everett was playing with cars. He told Cam not to bug him. Cam got upset and threw a car at him. Everett screamed bloody murder. Junior chimed in with his LOUD re-enactment: "Everett was minding his own business! This kid's a monster!" Chuck bellowed, "What is WRONG with this kid?!" And I was left standing there, swallowed up in a sea of tears and screams.

I put Cam in a time-out in his bed. In my loud, castrating, yelling Bad Mom voice I explained that hitting/throwing/punching/hurting is wrong. WRONG!

As I was leaving his room he whispered, "I just want to be alone." He rolled over and faced the wall.

I swear, everything went silent.

His back was so little. His hear was rumpled. His stuffed bear (his beloved "bee-ah") was under his arm. How could someone so small say something so big?

I went downstairs—a woman on a mission—and said, "We need to change. Cam isn't even three. He is trying to figure out his place in this family. And he just told me he wants to be alone." I looked at everyone pointedly. "He would rather be ALONE than be with any of us."

Chuck said, "Wow, that makes me really sad."

I looked at Junior. "From now on, you need to treat Cam like a person and not a bad pet. He's hitting you to get your attention. Redirect him. Talk to him."

I looked at Everett. "From now on, you need to include your brother in some of your activities. He's throwing cars at you to get your attention. Redirect him. Let him join you."

I looked at Chuck. "From now on, if you see me losing my cool you need to step in and give me five."

I told them, like I've told myself, No more yelling. We can all do better. 

I went upstairs and got Cam out of bed. I calmly reminded him that we need to be gentle with people, like we are with the cat and dog.

"Ok," he sniffled. "We do gentle."

"I'm sorry I yelled at you," I said.

"I'm sorry for fwowin' da cah."

I hugged him. "Let's go tell Everett you're sorry."

Yesterday and today were better days. I've starting shutting down the yelling as soon as it starts. I get down on Cam's level and try to see things from his perspective. Was it simply fresh or was there a provocation? How can we help him participate in more constructive ways?



I've dug deeper than I ever have to a pool of patience I didn't even know I had. Seriously, it's so deep (that's actual footage of it) that it's in my fucking toenails. Someday I'll probably have to borrow someone else's body because my patience pools will have runneth day.

I can be Zombie Mom. Body snatcher. Pool drinker.

She's better than Bad Mom.

Any day.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

I should be writing promo copy for the Gap, right?

If you are like me and have a little mom belly...

If you are like me and are feeling dull and washed out complexion-wise because of winter...

If you are like me and want to wear something that can be dressed up or down...

...you need to buy this top from the Gap.


http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=1016550&pcid=34608&vid=1&pid=937521002


I know from this photo it doesn't look like much to cheerlead about, but it is. I've worn this top with a jean jacket, a black velvet jacket, a dressy black cardigan and a red cardigan and I've gotten a million compliments every time. The top has a flattering bustline. It doesn't cling to your gut (after having three kids that's kind of important), and you can tuck it in loosely if you want to show off your waistline (aren't you all that).

Bonus: The gold sparkle is just enough to make the shirt pop without making you feel like a fan shat kid glitter all over your bosom.

That's all. Just a happy tip from the -10 degree, snow covered corner of Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite.  You can go back to your exciting life now.

Monday, January 1, 2018

At least we made it to one function together in 2017



Happy New Year!

The entire family has been sick on and off since Thanksgiving. You know how it goes. One kid brings some vile germ into the house and it makes the rounds and by the time the last person recovers someone else brings something new into the house and the damn cycle happens all over again.

Why this isn't a factor in family planning is beyond me. The question isn't "Do I really want another baby?" it's "Do I really want another head cold?"

People — mostly my family, neighbors and close circle of friends — have started recoiling when they see us. They act like we walk around licking random people's hands or grocery shop carts or just lack hygiene in general.

"Again??" they ask. Incredulous. While they sneeze and snivel into their own little tissues.

"Have you heard of hand sanitizer?" a fellow mom asked. Why no! What's that? Is that something I smoke after I've let the children run their toothbrushes along the trays at the food court?

Give me a break. The two older boys are exposed to school germs. Chuck and I are both exposed to office germs. Families and friends have germs. Because we don't live in a bubble, there are all the germs around town. At after school sports. Movie theaters. ATM machines. The gas pump. Just one wrong encounter with a germ and bam, we're on the ride again.

And what a lackluster ride. Chuck and I both had the week after Christmas off. We slept together — in the same bed — once in 11 days. One.Time. He was either on the couch with a cold or I was in the bed with the puke bug or we were tending to a child's vomit pan and switching shifts, like zombies in the night.

The only holiday event we made it to, as a family, was Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle's house.

Aunt Candice and Uncle Dick bought and refurbished an old barn in a remote Connecticut town and they were hot to show off their handy work. It was nice, yes but we had to swear under oath we weren't harboring any germs before they'd let us into the house.

WE AREN'T SICK WE PROMISE.

Ah, the barn-house. Sounds delightful doesn't it? It wasn't.

It was a long, narrow rectangle with a living room at one end, a kitchen in the middle, and another living room at the other end; each living room had a tree bearing gifts. If you wanted to talk to someone who was in the other living room you had to make your way through the kitchen, where Candice and her sister were cooking, and through the crowd of people clumped up in the narrow halls.

We have young children. Other people had young children. The knee-height children navigated the living room - kitchen - living room walk like it was a racetrack, while the adults bottle-necked and called to each other:

"Have you seen Cam?"

"No, but Bobby just went that way. No, wait, he's coming back around."

I should also mention that Candice and Dick like lighting for ambiance and not actually for seeing. There were lots of pretty glass domes hanging from the ceilings lit with .05 watt bulbs.

After a few drinks it became more of:

"Hey, have you seen Cam?"

"No, but the vodka is on that table, I think. Or is that the turkey? God I hope it's the turkey. It's eight o'clock!"

Candice was stressed because people kept bumping into her. Inebriated people started walking into walls, claiming they thought they were doors. Candice's sister burned the sweet potatoes. Dinner was fast and could barely be seen, even with added candlelight.

Then, gift unwrapping. No one knew which living room to stand in; neither could accommodate everyone. People called down the hall, "Is my gift for Uncle Fred in there? Because Uncle Fred is in here."

That turned into, "Can you just open Uncle Fred's present and hold it up so he can see it?"

Someone from each living room was nominated to be the gift holder upper, a la Vanna White. Again, the lack of lighting was an issue.

"What the hell is that? Is that a fishing line? Uncle Fred doesn't want that."

In the end, gift unwrapping was abandoned for more drinks. People went home with wrong presents (alcohol + dim lights + who knows where the receiver is =  random gifts hastily shoved into shopping bags).

We made a speedy exit at 10 p.m. Even though we declined leftovers, we ended up with someone's aluminum foil-wrapped turkey leg by our gas pedal. We took home two gifts we brought, plus a cat calendar, but at least we had the right children.

Riiight. I wouldn't have wanted to leave them behind. They had so much more to give us. That night, in fact.

Cam barfed on the ride home.

And tonight, Junior finished barfing around 6 p.m. We haven't left the house much all week. We haven't brought the gifts in from the car. Tomorrow morning, when Chuck goes back to work he'll have gone through three boxes of tissues, held three puke pans, not gotten any loving ... and we still won't know who the hell the calendar or turkey leg belonged to.

And we'll be walking into a brand new year of germs.

Hold me.*

*It's fine. I know you don't really want to because, you know, you'll probably catch something.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Christmas outfit from that OTHER Victoria's Secret


Thanks, honey. We can finally fulfill that furries fantasy I've been daydreaming about. Also, we are one step closer to becoming them:


The silver lining? (I told you, there's always a silver lining), I know already what to get Chuck next year for Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Toothbrush to the crotch? Bunny in your potty? Must be toddler time



Where does the time go?

No really, I want to know.

Immediately after I hit publish on my last post — the one in praise of adoration of children and toddlers — my toddler Cam began a downward spiral in behavior. Granted, he had a cold but even after the cold ended his "challenging" behavior continued.

If there's one thing I've learned since having kids it's that euphemisms abound for the toddler years. Challenging. Independent. Strong willed. Hardy. They all mean the same thing: your kid's kicking your ass. 

Cam has never been an easy going child. And forget what anyone says about your third kid being low-key because he or she has to be. It's a crock of shit.

This last month it's been the typical toddler stuff...plus extra, extra fun stuff like tantrums and freak outs. Shouting no. Throwing toys. Whacking Everett. Sucker punching Junior. Grabbing the cat's tail. Shutting doors on people. Ripping paper. This kid is so lucky he has the older brothers he does and that I keep a careful eye on all three or the older two would have leveled him months ago.

Chuck has taken the brunt of it. Cam started telling him he doesn't like him. That he doesn't want him to kiss him or hug him. The lowest point was a few nights ago when Chuck tried to help Cam put toothpaste on his toothbrush and Cam threw himself on the floor and screamed. Chuck gave him the option of standing up or going straight to bed. After a minute or so Cam was still screaming so Chuck scooped him up — and that's when Cam kicked Chuck (unfortunately in the crotch) and flailed his arms, knocking Chuck's glasses off of his face.

But Chuck. He's no newbie. After his voice went down an octave, he calmly put Cam into his crib and explained that he cannot hit or kick. Junior and Everett ran upstairs to see if Chuck was ok, and I came out of the bedroom, where I'd been in bed with a cold, and the four of us towered over Cam in his crib and explained again that Cam cannot hit or kick.

That's a lot of people commenting on one person's behavior. Cam looked small; we seemed like giants. Reprimanding giants. I'm not excusing Cam's behavior, but his life is run by a gaggle of people. Lately it feels as if Cam is a mini tornado and we're a houseful of admonishing forecasters.

After everyone went back downstairs I went in to see Cam. He was still sniffling. I asked him if he was ok and he said, "I just wanted my toothbrush. I just want to brush my teeth."

I took him into the bathroom and let him brush his teeth. I told him again that he shouldn't hurt Chuck and he said, "I'm sorry." We walked downstairs and he apologized to Chuck and gave him a kiss. Then he kissed Everett and Junior and said goodnight to the cat and the dog and we went back upstairs.

There was a day a few weeks ago when Cam pooped on the potty. He ran out of the bathroom and shouted, "I pooped!" And everyone — Chuck, me, Junior and Everett, maybe even the cat and dog—went running into the bathroom and marveled at his feat. He jumped up and down. All the accolades! The fanfare! I thought, he is lucky to be so loved.

That night as I watched Cam lie in bed I thought that same thought again. Yes, we are a chorus of people when he needs direction. He hears a stampede when he takes someone's toy. Nothing he does goes unnoticed because there are so many of us in this little house. But there is proof of vested love in his every action. Four people reminded him to be kind. Four people marveled at poop.

Don't forget the cat and dog.

As someone who spent the first eight years of my life as an only child—and someone whose parents took my pets for rides when they didn't want them anymore — that to me is pretty fucking amazing.

So that's my high note for this challenging month with this hardy child. There is a silver lining. Always.

I hope you have a fabulous holiday. I hope you eat cake with frosting and wear nice slippers and get to wash your hair and maybe get that bunny you've always wanted. I hope 2018 is better for all of us. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

In defense of adoration—even in the deli line



The toddler was all over his mother. Cam and I were in line at the deli at Mulletville Lite's town grocery store, watching the lovefest.

"I love you SO much, Mommy!" the boy was saying. The woman was visibly pregnant, holding him on top of her bump. "I just LOVE you!" He took her long hair and pulled it under her ears and chin. Every time he leaned in to nuzzle her he said, "I just love you SO, SO much!"

Isn't that sweet, I thought.

"I LOVE YOU, Mommy!"

"I LOVE YOU, Mommy!"

"I JUST LOVE YOU, Mommy!"

Wow, I thought, that kid has it bad. Stalker bad, but still sweet. Cam is affectionate–all three boys have been–but he's not one to fawn. His toddler love is quieter, softer. This kid was IN LOVE.

After more swooning, the mother put him down to give the clerk her deli order. Soon enough they were on their way, hand in hand. As they walked down a far aisle, out of earshot, a woman in her early sixties (late fifties? Hell, I don't know) leaned into the woman next to her (older again, graying hair) and said, "I don't miss that stage one bit."

The other woman replied, with a haughty scoff, "Me EITHER!"

Wow. Didn't see that coming.

I wondered about the exchange the whole drive home. I had expected the women to say the opposite, that the toddler's professions of love were precious/endearing/blah blah blah but nope. They were all set. I remembered a woman I'd run into weeks before at the playground. She looked absolutely traumatized by the sight of my three kids.

"I have one," she said, "and I can't handle it. He touches me constantly. He has no boundaries."

She confided that she was in therapy because of it. Because of the unwelcome physicality of motherhood.

I guess I'd never thought about it, but it's true: Children touch you constantly, and if you're not into it, you're just not into it.

There have been times when I haven't wanted someone on my lap or hip or leg. Absolutely. Space is limited when you have kids. But it feels good (better at least) when the clinging is accompanied by confessions of adoration, right? It's the sweet spot of parenting. It helps temper all of the whining and meltdowns and tears and vomit and bodily fluids and colds and potty training accidents and vomit...

Oh wait. I said that already.

But right? Isn't the closeness why we have children in the first place? Doesn't it stem from love and a desire to share love?

Or am I completely naive?

I wanted to fast forward 20 years, to see if maybe I'd feel that way someday—relieved it's over—waiting in line at the deli. We're expected to feel a sense of loss when our children don't need us anymore. When they're grown and gone, we're supposed to bemoan our empty nest, hunger for visits and contact. For confessions of love—when maybe all we get is a monthly phone call. Could that ever be me, I wondered. Relieved that the emotional intimacy of my children's childhood is all over?

I don't know. I keep thinking back to a conversation I had this week with my mother and Cam.

"You're so cute!" she said. "Do you have a girlfriend?"

He shrugged sheepishly and, in his little two-and-a-half year old voice, said, "I just have my mom. I just love my mom."

I hugged him. And he hugged me back. Hard.

Monday, October 23, 2017

How I finally caught the babysitter stealing



A few weeks ago in Mulletville Lite, I told you how I had begun to question the integrity of our babysitter, Kim. I believed she was stealing from us. I was right.

What follows is how I finally caught the bitch.

If you remember, I hired a new sitter because Kim was soon to depart the United States for a nannying job abroad. I still had Kim babysit here and there, however, because I knew she needed the money for her trip. (Can you hear the Universe laughing at me?)
 
One Monday, I had Kim come so I could run errands. I hadn't thought about the missing money in a long time, mostly because I'd been more careful with our money. We all had. Junior got birthday money from a relative he hadn't seen in awhile, and we'd put it in a sealed envelope in my bedroom. On the envelope he'd written "Junior's birthday money" in his child handwriting.

Again, I close my bedroom door every time I leave the house, and I'd naively thought that was enough of a deterrent.

Before I left to run errands, I saw that Chuck had emptied his wallet and left $180 on the bureau. I looked at the money and got goosebumps. It was surreptitious placement. I'm going to leave that there, I said to myself. If it is gone when I come back I will know that the wind didn't blow it off my bureau, Cam didn't throw it somewhere...I will know it was stolen.  

Off I went.

When I came back it was gone. 

Even worse, the envelope with Junior's birthday money was gone too.

I called Chuck. I was shaking. I thought I might throw up. I was filled with disgust, with rage and with disbelief. What a con artist this young woman was. Chuck said he'd drive home so I didn't have to confront her alone, so I stood in our bedroom and watched out of the window as Kim played with Cam.

About an hour later (!), Chuck pulled into the driveway. He took Cam into the living room and I calmly asked Kim about the missing money. At first she denied it. She even offered to help me look for it. Then Chuck walked in and told her we had the whole thing on video.

"You're caught," he said.

She looked down and pulled the $180 from her pocket.

"I'm sorry," she started.

"We don't want to hear it," I said. "You have 24 hours to return all of the money you stole or I'm calling the police."

Her face lost all color. It was the first time I'd seen any indication that she understood the magnitude of her choices. She begged us not to involve the police. She promised she'd have the money. And she did. She returned it the next morning, along with a pathetic letter of apology that blamed her thievery on fear, needing money for a relative's medical bills, debt, and so on. But I know the truth: She wanted to pad her pockets for her upcoming trip abroad.

It's been just about a month since this went down. I cut off all ties with Kim on social media, though for awhile I tormented myself by looking at her accounts—waiting for some indication that she felt remorse or regret or anything in that family, but there was nothing. Just selfies. Excitement for her trip. More selfies.

I guess that's the real offense of this experience: Even though I didn't commit a crime, I am the one dealing with a crisis of conscience. I'll forever regret not calling the police, only because I don't feel she learned a damn thing. But I wonder if it would have been worth it to involve them, to upturn a 19-year-old's life.

The kids asked about Kim for a few days, then she slipped from their minds. The new sitter is a dream come true, but I only have her come when I'm working from home. It took weeks to switch my brain off this topic. I relentlessly pursued the imagined details: Did she steal when Cam was napping? Was she so brazen that she snooped around my bedroom while he played by himself?

My bedroom felt sullied. Tainted. No longer a safe or enjoyable space, even though I rearranged the furniture. 

"Stop torturing yourself," Chuck would say. "None of that matters."

I guess he's right. No point in lingering in the unpleasantness, when the outcome could have been much worse.

I thought I'd feel a tremendous sense of relief the day Kim's plane took off, but life doesn't work like that. I feel better than I did, but I'll never trust anyone in my home again. Chuck and I are the dumb luckers who had that sitter. We are the cautionary tale. The learn-from-our-mistakers.

And to think that Kim was supposed to be an upgrade from the previous sitter—one who kept accidentally texting me things meant for her boyfriend. Yep, those kinds of things. But that is another blog post in itself.

P.S. I have contacted sittercity.com and care.com and they have removed Kim from their websites.

Bad Mom in Toddler Town: A wake-up call

I've been reading up on toddlers in hopes of better understanding my soon-to-be three year old, Cameron. He's our third son, but he&...