Dear moms: one day, your kids will miss this.

One of my least favorite lines of parenting advice is the the phrase, “you’re going to miss all of this one day.” I dislike this advice for two reasons.

For one, it’s advice that is in the same vein as telling a grieving person that “everything happens for a reason”, or the person struggling to stay afloat to “shoot for the moon so they can land among the stars.” It can seem more like a brush off than an actual attempt to encourage or commiserate.

I don’t want advice that sounds like a middle school motivational poster telling me how I’m going to make it through each day when there is chaos up to my elbows or the world is on fire. I want practical wisdom that tells me how to get it all done, and advice that tells me that someone else has been right where I am.

The other reason is because it’s too much pressure on us parents.

I get the idea. To savor every moment with your children before they’re gone. Only…it’s hard to see why I should hate the idea that my house will eventually be empty when the other day I had to wash and fold three loads of laundry just to keep the baskets from spilling over.

It’s hard to see a downside to a full eight or nine hours of sleep every night, using the bathroom in complete privacy or not having to break up petty sibling disputes over the t.v. remote – by the way, with the advent of so much new technology, will we ever reach a point where siblings don’t have to argue over a remote of some kind??

We mothers already know.

We know this is a long game. This game where our kids spend eighteen years rearranging our lives, invading our space, losing all of our tubes of chapstick and growing into fully fledged people who leave just as we get used to having them around.

We know. Because we are the ones that put away the baby clothes, drop off the used toys to Goodwill and take kids back to school shopping in the fall because they’ve grown too tall for their jeans. We are the ones that carve the notches into the dining room trim at the tops of their fuzzy heads.

We can look back and tell you where we were in our own lives when they were born, when they were learning to walk or said their first words.

We measure our own selves by how much they have grown.

By how much they have grown us.

We know where the time goes.

I know what meets me at the end of this road. And it pains my heart sometimes that I can’t enjoy everything. That I’m the mom who sucks at being meaningful at bedtime because for the love, children, you have had me all day. Close your eyes.

I’m the mom who can’t fold paper well enough to make origami, can’t sew on a button back on a favorite toy, and who has no desire to visit group story time at the library.

I’m the mom who is still in her pajamas at noon half of the time. I’m the mother who notes every second it takes her six year old to enunciate the word “stem,” who smells like dry shampoo in the checkout line at Target, and who looks at her phone while her kids play at Chick Fil A. I’m the mom who shrivels inside when her toddler asks her to play Paw Patrol.

I already torture myself enough knowing that I don’t savor every.single.moment. with my children like I live inside a Chicken Soup for the Soul book.

Just last night, though, as I listened to three children voice their displeasure with dinner and then move on to fighting over three dollar plastic toys like they were the treasures of ancient Egypt, I whispered to myself that one day, THEY would be the ones to miss this.

They will miss this place where not much is required of them but to do their best. To be happy. To thrive.

Where beach trips just happen, and they aren’t the ones who have to worry about all of the sand in all of the places and slathering sunscreen onto their squirming bodies.

Where someone made sure they had perfect sprinkle covered cookies on Christmas Eve, ice cream on hot summer evenings, and boiled eggs to dye on Easter.

They will miss hot meals served on clean plates (plates they didn’t have to clean), around a table where all of us have locked fingers and bowed our heads in prayer. A place where their sock drawer is always full. Where there is always someone who cares deeply about their hopes and fears and feelings standing at the kitchen sink.

They will go out into the world and realize how much others require of them without caring much about every turning cog in their minds, or how they feel about the movie Jurassic Park.

They’ll find a world that is mostly indifferent to them, save for a handful of good friends and people back home who really know and love them.

They will miss the times when this every day life was their constant.

I try not to let the pressure sink me every day. I try to fight against the urgency to make sure that I get it all right the first time because there aren’t second chances. Even though every new day is ripe with the opportunities to nail this parenting thing.

I succeed when I remind myself why I’m doing all of this in the first place. That I’m building a home because one day, they will understand and it will all matter to them. The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and folded clothes and late night snuggles – they’ll see it as the lifetime of labor that made them who they are.

I hope to build the place they will one day miss.

I hope they know that they had a place where they were held and valued and watched over.

Even if their mother never did papier-mache with them.

 

 

 

 

 

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How You Will Actually Spend Your Summer “Vacation”

Have you felt it yet?… The sweat? Namely, the boob sweat?

That means summer is here, mommas! Rejoice! Salve, Maria?! Don’t the longer days sound just great??

Or how about blue crabs covered in Old Bay washed down with a cold beer? Or American flags flying everywhere in your sleepy small town? And you can’t forget late nights spent chasing fireflies in bare feet. At least, those are my go to summertime fantasies here in Maryland.

Now, we take a moment of silence to reflect on how we made it, moms. Or at least, how we’ve almost made it. There are probably still teacher gifts to buy, more class parties to make it through that are always smack dab in the middle of the day, and did you get tricked into chaperoning half a dozen field trips this spring??

Jerry pool

The month of May is a catastrophic marathon that tests the mettle of any parent’s sanity.

But you can do this. 

If you send your kiddos to school, you probably signed a million and one worksheets this year, fielded parent-teacher phone calls like a high-powered CEO, and made a dozen gluten-peanut-GMO-covfefe free snacks for class parties.

If you homeschool, you made it through another year of arguing to get reluctant bottoms in chairs on time each day. You were parent, teacher, principal and jail warden all wrapped in one.

Now it’s warm. The birds are singing. The schedules are clearing. It’s summer.

Which is great, right?

How easily I forget how this plays out every.single.year.

The first few weeks are a welcome respite from our hectic daily routine. But after the first week, the children are “bored”, the house is a wreck and my sanity starts to deteriorate faster than the universe at the end of Infinity War.

Every year, I forget that I actually need to be proactive about how these summer days are going to play out if my sanity is to be preserved. But, as usual, reality and reason need to rule the day as much as our idealism. 

But summer vacation is hardly a vacation. Think of it like an in-office work casual day. Most of the same stresses are there, just everyone is allowed to wear casual clothes.

 

How you will actually spend your summer

So here, parents. I made you this list of what you’re actually going to do this summer. (Results may vary)

You will spend your vacation:

1.) Settling petty sibling disputes over the television remote.

2.) Settling petty sibling disputes over who was sitting in that chair first.

3.) Settling petty sibling disputes over who was breathing the air in the kitchen first.

4.) Planning to take your kids swimming. Then spending two hours trying to get to the pool because they all need help getting into their swim suits and you have to hazard spray them with sunscreen. About the time they are dressed and you are packed, you’ll realize you are out of swim diapers for the toddler.

5.) Killing mosquitoes.

6.) Wondering why the car smells the way it smells…like salty feet covered in stale juice.

7.) Staring at the magazines in the grocery store checkout line trumpeting celebrity beach bodies and tropical vacations while you purchase a box of Pop tarts and boxed wine.

8.) Listening to your children tell you they are bored.

9.) Listening to your children tell you they are hot.

10.) Listening to your children tell you they are bored AND hot.

11.) Yelling, “for the love, IN OR OUT!!!” after your children have come in and out of the house nine times in the last thirty minutes seconds.

12.) Killing house flies.

13.) Struggling to put sunscreen on your octopus-armed toddler.

14.) Forgetting to put sunscreen on yourself and getting burnt.

15.) Having your children swat at your sunburn for five days straight.

16.) Telling yourself that when you don’t brush and/or blow dry your hair between the months of May and September, you can say you have beach waves going on, so it’s all good, just don’t mind the nest of birds and scattered pop rocks up there.

17.) Picking up damp towels and swimsuits off the bathroom floor.

18.) Picking up damp towels and swimsuits off the bedroom floor.

19.) Remembering that you left a bag full of damp towels and swimsuits in the back of the car last week…

20.) Helping your child squeeze their ice pops to the top so they can take a bite. Then watching them squeeze so hard all the ice falls out.

21.) Watching $12 worth of ice cream melt all over your children.

22.) Bathing children who have sand in hidden crevices scientists haven’t even discovered.

23.) Finding sippy cups that were carelessly tossed under a seat that have been baking in the sun and now have a pulse.

24.) Making thirteen trips to and from the car at the beach.

25.) Wondering why you are the only mom you know who seems to sweat more than Evander Holyfield.

Ellie pool

26.) Yelling, “CLOSE THE DOOR! WE AREN’T AIR CONDITIONING THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD!!!!” as realize you have turned into your parents so your life is over now.

27.) Wondering what happened to all of those people who used to party at the MTV Beach house.

28.) Worrying if the neighbors just heard shouting curse words at the dog through the open windows.

29.) Having your children interrupt your favorite song on the radio with questions about chicken nuggets.

30.) Wondering which child walked off with your sunglasses.

31.) Realizing you were jamming to Nelly and Beyonce fifteen years ago, and now you’re asthmatic after inflating all three of your kids beach balls.

32.) Telling your children not to run at the pool.

33.) Putting your kids to bed late after a busy day, thinking they will sleep in…

34.) Only to have them wake up earlier than usual and, also, hangry.

35.) Sitting in traffic.

36.) Trying to make up answers to all of your kid’s questions about when you’re going to take them to the: zoo, splash pad, pool, museum, movies and…

37.) Shaking a pound of sand and dirt out of your children’s shoes. Sweeping up sand off the floor. Vacuuming sand out of the car.

Here’s the truth. Summer has a magic all its own. Just now that you’re the parent, the magic is going to feel different. So, so different.

Now we have to look a lot harder to find the good stuff.

Like, picking up seashells with your little one.

Having a viable excuse to eat watermelon and cantaloupe for dinner.

Watching your children be overjoyed at the sight of fireflies.

The smell of salty hair after a swim in the ocean and coconut sunscreen.

A glass of wine on a warm summer evening.

Watching your kids eat ice pops, drink little huggies drinks and nom on ice cream, and it reminding you of your glorious summer days of old.

 

See? What did I tell you. Magic. You just have to look for it.

Pool

 

 

 

 

When you’re not the brand new mom anymore

Is there such a thing as the dog-days of raising children?

I feel like if such a thing exists, then I am surely living in them. 

I’m not always fond of the dog-days of summer. The thrill of warm days and nights, of beach trips and sandals usually wanes for me by August. By the middle of the month, I am ready for every wayward insect to die a frostbitten death. I am beyond tired of the boob sweat that plagues me every time I step outside. 

Dog-days with children are the same way.

It’s the space between them becoming mobile creatures, and them turning into potty-trained, slightly better mannered small children. Somewhere in there, it’s almost like they become feral.

I’m in this fold right now.

I have a toddler, and two elementary aged children. The older two could argue about practically anything – and seek to do so daily. While the toddler lives by a personal manifesto that is equal parts the word “no,” and the phrase “YOLO.”

It’s a rare thing when I prepare a meal that everyone eats happily, without even one crinkled nose. It’s even rarer to put all of my children in their beds and actually have them fall asleep without reappearing a handful of times. 

And so, with an undomesticated toddler underfoot (or standing in the yard wearing rain boots and no pants), two junior litigators, and my flailing attempts to draw boundaries and teach them goodness, the energy is drained from my lifeless body daily before ten in the morning.

Do you ever think that moms can lose their vision?

We all start out wanting to do the right thing.

We read the baby books. Heck, we practically started off thinking we could write the proverbial book on parenting. We cut their grapes into fours, made sure they only watched one cartoon a day, and we never left the house without a fully stocked diaper bag.

We answered every cry and question with such purpose, such assuredness. Every waking thought and conversation was dedicated to them. And their faces bring us such unabated joy.

Eventually, maybe a few more kids got added on to the pile, and the days become more about surviving then actually accomplishing anything. The minute hand on the clock slows down. Time becomes relative in relation to when your toddler skips their nap. On those days you watch the space between lunchtime and when your husband walks back in the door grow about five times in length.

You used to sit down while the baby slept. But now, there’s a child latched on to the front of you, and a maybe child pulling at your pant leg, and possibly one shouting at you from the other room….and maybe even one more making questionable smells in the bathroom.

The mom who promised herself that there would be no compromising, no gray areas, becomes the mom who will give in and just buy the damn Lunchables so she can make it through the store without children gnawing off her ears with requests for one thing or another. 

Everything becomes like an episode of American Gladiator.

There is no just making it up the foam mountain, you have to make it past the tennis balls whirring right towards you. No battle, no task is clear cut or simple. There are multiple variables to be considered at all times. Always.

There is no just making it through the grocery store when there exists such torturous things as cereal aisles and miniature carts the kids can push around because didn’t you plan on having your ankles maimed while you went to the store to buy milk?

But really? What happens when you aren’t that brand new mom any longer?

The scent of Dreft has long since faded from your washing machine. That life giving earnestness you had when everything was new has faded. Now your kids have grown old enough to argue with you about whose turn it is the sit in the middle swing at the park. You haven’t made it to the gym in you don’t know how long, and come to think of it, you actually can’t remember the last time you did anything for yourself intentionally that wasn’t akin to spreading peanut butter on a graham cracker, and shoving it in your face while, blessedly, no one was looking.

Nobody really asks how you’re handling everything anymore, except for maybe the handful of mom friends you have. Everybody just assumes that you have a firm grip on everything now. Or they relate enough to know that there is really no such thing as having it all together, and they bring you chocolate even when you didn’t ask for it. 

Now you’re the lady with a few runts hanging off the side of the grocery cart in the store. Nobody gives you the second glance to see how extraordinary you are as you diplomatically sort out whose turn it is to choose the cereal, this week. 

Those visions? The ones you had of how you thought it was gonna be? They’re toast.

As shriveled as the split ends hanging off your head. They are dried out, flapping in the breeze as much as those batwings on your arms do when you wave to a friend across the parking lot at Target. 

Nobody ever told you how hard this was gonna be. And really, would you have even sincerely believed them if they had? And how would you have even understood??

We are in the stage where we aren’t quite the blushing new mom at the grocery store who illicit gently turned heads and praise from other moms as their pink baby is nestled into their chest. Everyone loves that mom. Her kind is welcome here, full of its promise. 

But we aren’t old enough to be pushing a cart alone in a store with stain free pants on, a coffee in hand, admiring all of the young moms while reminiscing about the good ole days, overlooking their struggle or looking on their efforts with sentimentality. 

We are in the stage hardly anybody talks about. Where it is all so unwaveringly hard.

Forget about everything else that’s going on in the world, that’s going on with everyone else. There is enough going on right here, in this house. With these children.

When the nap times have stopped. When there is homework. Where there is no romance, because romance would require the children in your house to actually fall asleep at a decent time. You’re actually confused now as to how anyone ever made more than a handful of tiny humans because even a few of them become such enormous deterrents to marital romance, let alone sitting down.

You’re in the stage where you want to throw your phone across the room when you read someone complaining about how tired they are on Facebook, or about the pedicure they just treated themselves to after such a “hard week”, only you’re too tired to even do so. So you simmer in your disdain. 

This is it. The point of no return.

There are no bottles or nap time schedules. In fact, the only schedule is the one you make, which sounds empowering until you realize how much effort that takes to stay on top of everything American Gladiator-style.

You are moving into the era of shoes needing to be tied, and not Velcro’d. Of after school sports or clubs, and miles on your vehicle as you scurry between everything like a taxi. You are almost to this promised land of kids who can make their own eggs for breakfast, and who you can trust not to run into the street on a whim. 

But for now, you’re nose is to the grindstone, your hand is on the plow. And you are making this work. And it is taking every inch of you. It takes every ounce of moxie you have to not throw everyone’s toys in the trash can, because you how many times have you told them not to just leave them sitting out right after you stepped on a Lego??

Nobody ever tells you what it’s like when you become this giving tree of gargantuan proportions. 

And they assuredly never tell you how beautiful that is.

Nobody tells you how brave you are when you make those hard parenting decisions. Or even the mundane ones. Because someone else’s mundane is your miracle.

Nobody tells you how selfless you are, when you get up again in the middle of the night to quell bad dreams. Or when your children fall victim one by one to the flu, and you haven’t hardly showered or left your house for almost two weeks unless it’s to the doctors. 

Nobody has ever told you how blisteringly tired you are gonna be when those tinies turn into littles, and that it takes pure fight in you sometimes to make it through each day.

Nobody has ever told you how much this world is depending on you, to raise those babies into children into teenagers into adults who care about the rest of us. Nobody has ever told you how powerful you are even when you are catching someone’s puke in your hands or down the front of you. 

ALEX

Nobody has ever told you how powerful it is that you care and that you love, because raising up from that will be more people who care and who love. People we hope will reach the next level. We already have enough violence in this world, enough brokenness, so what we need are people who love unconditionally and that is borne from the love that sheds off of you every day in every humble effort. 

Maybe nobody ever told you. Until now.

I wouldn’t know what to tell the parent who is struggling. Who is exhausted beyond words. Who is afraid. Who feels like they are losing themselves to this parenting battle. Who just wants to sit down. 

There is nothing I can say to you that makes those problems, those worries, those obstacles go away. 

I can only say that you, friend, momma, are not alone in this. We are all out here. And we sometimes think that we are invisible to anyone else, to each other. But we aren’t. 

I need you here, in this, with me. Right now.

I hear that one day, our children will know how to cut the crusts off of their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The ones that they will have made for them themselves. By themselves.

I hear it gets easier, and then right around the time it does, we start to fret.

Because we will already miss them so.