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

 

 

 

 

Dear Waitress: this is why I was alone

My husband walked through the door. Dinner simmered on the stove. Children wailed and argued from the other room. 

I stirred the cooking rice and chicken on the stovetop once more. I folded the dishrag into a neat pile by the sink. And I calmly told my husband that I needed to leave. 

I laid out pajamas on the coffee table, a set for each child. I scooped dinner out into three different bowls, made three different cups of water. 

I grabbed my purse and my keys, blew kisses and closed the door. I contained myself from doing a mad sprint to the car.

I stopped at the supermarket on the way into town to choose a magazine to read while I ate my dinner.

I looked at all of the glossy, colorful magazine covers lining the shelves. Smiling, air-brushed, and seemingly well-rested faces looked back at me. Bidding me to try the sex moves that would change my life and discover the fall fashion or makeup palette to ring in the new season. To try the fat busting moves that would bring forth the abs of steel that my life has been missing – speaking of which, does anyone else notice how magazines that champion for you to get into the “greatest shape of your life!!!11!” never use entertainers who have had three or four kids as their cover models? Get three people cut out of your abdomen, and spend eleven months feeding them from your body while they grind your nipples up like beef in a meat mincer, sister, and then we’ll talk about how you “manage” to keep yourself in shape. 

I grabbed the one with the least annoying celebrity on the cover (Zooey Deschanel, you win this time), and paid for it.

I reached the sushi restaurant, hoping to the gods of dining-in that on a Thursday evening at seven p.m., they would have space for me. Not the sushi bar. Not a freestanding table. A BOOTH. Go big or go home.

The young lady behind the counter looked confused for a moment, her eyes quickly wandering to glance over my shoulder at the no-one coming in the door behind me. Yes, just me, I chirped. Party of one like whoa.

She asked if I wanted just a sushi menu, and guided me to my table, my nest of respite for the next forty minutes. She still seemed unsure as she slipped the menu across the table to me. She pointed out where the pens were to mark my choices on the menu, and informed me that there were more options on the back. 

I’ve been to this place more than a dozen times. 

I sat down in my seat, and looked up only for a brief moment at the no-one across from me. Then I affixed my attention to the menu until my waitress appeared. 

She offered me a drink, and as I ordered, I asked if the restaurant still gave out complimentary salad and soup. When she asked which one I wanted, I told her both, because that really is the only option. 

I handed her my menu, and she seemed surprised that I was ready so quickly. But such is the luxury of only ordering for one. I could tell you what I’d order at almost any place in town in a snap because I spend my days eating cereal for lunch while dreaming of food that I don’t have to make myself.

As she retreated to fetch my drink, I began to peel through the magazine pages. Such colors. So many young women with bright eyes, no bags or circles. And so much jumping in the air and wind tussled hair all for the sake of tampon advertisements.

I felt so silly. 

The waitress returned with my drink, and looked confused by my magazine. I told her thanks, and returned to reading. 

Such began this majestic dance for the remainder of the evening; the waitress remaining polite and efficient, but also seemed unsure of what to do with the lady with no makeup on, in a booth by herself, shoving food into her mouth like it was going out of style, reading from the pages of a Cosmo magazine that was clearly meant for people ten years younger than her. 

I silently remembered how I would have never, ever gone to dinner by myself in a sit down restaurant before I had children. And even after. 

Escaping for an evening from the house used to mean that I needed to have a friend waiting for me somewhere. I needed a plan.

Now, escape just means escape. And sometimes, you might have the chance to arrange for all of that socializing stuff, while other times you simply don’t.

You grab what you can and run from the house like it’s actually on fire, when really, it’s full of sick children, dogs who chew everyone’s shoes and a mound of laundry larger than the Eiffel Tower.

You leave everything behind, and get the hell out while you can and you don’t stop to ask such frivolous questions like, “who am I even going to hang out with??”.

You do what needs to be done to survive. 

I am to the point in my life where sitting alone in a booth, stuffing salad with ginger dressing in my mouth while my phone is set on silent, with magazine siting open in front of me sounds like just as much of an accomplishment as a night spent out in the town with five of my closest friends. 

Mothers become this paradox after they spend years raising their brood.

We feel alone even when surrounded by an army of tiny people who never give us a moment’s peace. And, sometimes, when we actually are alone, we feel complete. 

I had a date with myself the other night.

I got to know myself a bit more.

There isn’t always a chance for that when spouses and children and mutt dogs come into the picture. Not often since the walls of my home started to feel like they were going to burst apart at the seams, and since children started chasing me down to remind me every fifty-three seconds about the book fair at school this week.

It’s easy to see why the chance to continue your relationship with yourself is the first thing to go. It’s the most negotiable, the easiest to suppress. You learn to tell yourself no more than you tell your children no.

sushi-plate

Which is why, sometimes, you need to take yourself on a date.

And the good thing about yourself is that you’re comfortable with pauses and brief silences in the conversation. You’re okay to rest that internal monologue of all of the things you have to do in a bid for sweet silence. You just ply yourself with rolls of sushi and Pepsi until you’re ready to talk again. 

Myself and I laughed and laughed at the pages of that magazine. How nineteen year old me would have hung on every word about how to give him the night of his life. I would have perused every shelf in the cosmetics section at Wal-Mart, looking for the perfect fall blush to match my skin tone. 

I don’t even know where I put that magazine after I got home. But I did return to one child throwing up, and the dog working her way through the heel of my shoe.

It was brief, so very brief. But I had a great time. 

I’m thinking we might have to do this again.