Brave

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On Saturday at dress rehearsal, my daughter was the only one who refused to even participate. It was her first real recital on a big stage in a big auditorium. She felt nervous and unprepared, since her best friend and dance partner had hurt her arm and couldn’t perform with her. My heart sank as she peeked out from behind the curtain, watching the rest of her class perform their ballet number to John Lennon’s “Imagine” they had worked on for months. At home that night, we talked to her about being brave, and the importance of facing your fears so you can overcome them and never be afraid of them again. Then about how she looks just like Merida on the Disney movie Brave. Then about how she could get ice cream if she just went on the stage with the rest of her class tomorrow. And how she can not get ice cream if she doesn’t go on stage, sorry. Nope. No ice cream if you don’t dance. What can I say, it was not our finest moment. It started out pretty good, and devolved quickly into bribery and talking about cartoons. Then we talked to each other about not being disappointed if she wasn’t dancing with the rest of the class tomorrow. Yes, even after we make Grandma and Grandpa sit in traffic for 2 hours just to see her. I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she just wasn’t ready. She didn’t seem ready. Then I started to feel like kind of a jerk for caring so much. What was I, some kind of deranged stage mom? On the day of the performance as I sent her back to line up with the rest of her class, she had tears in her eyes. So did I. I hugged her as hard as I could and told her that she would be awesome no matter what. Watching the other classes before hers in the dark middle school auditorium, I finally began to relax and knew that no matter how it turned out, in a few years she would have brand new interests that may or may not include dance class, and will have completely forgotten about this. Just kidding, I mentally played out the extensive shame cycle of disappointment she would experience if she didn’t dance with the rest of her class today and how it would negatively affect her life choices from now until approximately age 38. Normal mom stuff. It was time for her class to go on. I realized I hadn’t breathed in a couple of hours. The curtain inched open, and there she was. Smiling! Dancing! The song ended, and we all rushed backstage to congratulate her. She was so proud, and so happy. And I suddenly knew with all my heart that I was not a deranged stage mom. The look of victory on her face told me why I cared so much.

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I’ve Lost It

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You know that rule about how when you have children you’re not supposed to “lose yourself?” Well, I’ve broken it. Hard. Like, obliterated it with a sledgehammer, sawed up the bigger pieces with a chainsaw and set it on fire. The person I am has been permanently altered, and there is no going back. In my spare time I research art projects for my kids and browse the $7 rack in the children’s section at H&M. I spend an unreasonable amount of time thinking about snacks to buy for them. Sometimes those snacks are dinner, but what my kids don’t know is that before they came into my life I would wander into work half an hour late for no good reason, sometimes spend 7 hours in a row watching television, and always ate snacks for dinner. I wasn’t prepared for all this work. How can you be? How do your children not become your entire life? I eat, sleep and breathe my kids. Literally, when they talk to me I lean in as close as I can to smell their little breath. I want to inhale their entire bodies. It’s probably creepy. I can’t help it. I cry every time I see a sleeping baby in public now. I’ve googled every combination of the words “mother, emotional, tired, and normal” humanly possible. Oh, and bedtime. Bedtime is so hard. And so loud. Then as soon as it’s quiet I think for a minute, “What if my apartment was this quiet all the time?” Then I decide I REALLY want that. Then after about 10 minutes, I decide I am extremely uncomfortable with quiet and never ever want a quiet house again. The thought of a quiet house makes me so, so sad. Then I hear my daughter calling me for another sip of water, and all I want in the world is a quiet moment to myself. Rinse, repeat, goodnight kiss.

Mom

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I found this photo of my mom that I took on the day we moved from our old house on Brookhaven Drive to our new house (well, new to us but 100 years old) on East 8th street. I was in the 7th grade. All I cared about was meticulously transferring my Paula Abdul posters in a Trapper Keeper to my new closet door in my new room, and confirming multiple times that the Nintendo would work in our new house. I did not care that my parents had done all the tireless work required to find a family of four a new house to live in. I didn’t care, because I just didn’t know. They made it seem so easy. Look at my mom right here, so deep into the moving process that she’s up to the part where you pack the food. She probably even reminded my dad to drink that last sip of orange juice in the fridge because she knew he would be annoyed if she poured it out. She definitely rolled her eyes while doing so. She had probably just days before done something like allowed 9 prepubescent girls to sleep over and scream at the top of their (our) lungs until 5 am, then after 1 hour of sleep made everyone breakfast. Or finished sewing my sister and I some kind of amazing couture outfits out of any fabric we wanted from the sewing department of Wal-Mart (it was spelled with a dash back then, I wonder why they changed it). She never said a curse word, and barely ever raised her voice. She’s so full of love. She will probably make a snarky remark or point out one of my grammatical mistakes in response to this, because she never wants to admit to her amazingness. But all I know is that any of the patience I have with my own kids today comes from her. So a million times, thank you mom.

Momspreading

 

momspreading

mom·spread·ing
ˈmomˌsprediNG/
noun, informal
The practice whereby a mom, especially one traveling on public transportation, adopts a sitting position in which her children take up multiple seats while looking out the window, asking for snacks, demanding you play “I spy” while you are looking for said snacks, fight over who gets to swing around the subway pole similar to children who ride in cars calling “shotgun,” ask you what character you would be if you were in the film Moana and getting frustrated at you for not answering right away because you were chasing your stroller that has practically rolled out the door as you forgot to apply the break while trying to stop your youngest child from smearing chewed up granola bar residue on a lady’s nice jacket, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats. The offending mom might even feel a small shred of remorse for momspreading everywhere if she ever had a chance to stop for 2 seconds and realize what exactly is going on once in a while.

 

 

M. Night Shyamalan Ate My Daughter

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My 5 year-old has been working on a play for about the past 3 months called “Walking In Fear.” She’s always adding bits and pieces to the story, sometimes as we’re on the train ride back from school, then when we get home she sketches the newly added chapter on a loose sheet of typing paper. Yesterday she asked me to make a list of the characters so she can keep track of all of them.

“Mommy, write down all these names for Walking In Fear. Sara the Mouse, The Flower Girl, King, Queen, Zombie, Alien, Ghost, Candy Girl, O’nay, Kana, Little Girl Named Lisa, Big Donut, and The Baby. WAIT!! No. No no no, I totally forgot, The King, Queen, Zombie, Big Donut and Little Girl Named Lisa are actually from a different story called The Runaway Queen. That one is a movie and also a book, but Walking In Fear is a play. It’s a musical. The Runaway Queen is not a musical.”

“Ok, I’ll write all those down. This is the first I’ve heard of The Runaway Queen, what happens in that story?”

“So, the Queen and the Little Girl Named Lisa got captured by the Zombie. Then they both woke up and realized it was actually a dream. But after that, a few days later it came true and they really DID get captured by the zombie. Also what you don’t know until the end is that the big donut is really the zombie. Everyone realizes that the zombie had been under a spell the whole time that made him want to be a donut, and he had on a donut costume.”

“Cool! So do you want me to make this a separate list from the characters in Walking In Fear?”

“Mom. It’s the SAME STORY. That’s what nobody realizes until the end too, Walking In Fear and The Runaway Queen turn into the same thing and it’s all a play, a movie, AND a book. Oh, and I play Candy Girl. Because she likes candy a lot.”

Doorman

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We were leaving a play date at a friend’s house, and when we were walking home my daughter mentioned that “the guy told her a funny joke when we were leaving.” I asked, “What guy?” and she said, “The guy who opens the door for us at Orly’s apartment, you know, the owner of the building.” Then I realized that she thinks doormen actually own the buildings where they work. There’s something so charmingly blind to society’s constructs about that. I’m usually very honest with my kids, but I’m not ready to tell her the truth about this one.

Anything But Screaming

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I took my kids to the doctor the other day because they had been coughing and not feeling great for a couple of days, but by the time we got there they weren’t acting sick at all. They were dancing around the waiting room singing, “Shake your booty!!” then started playing “Library” with some medication brochures displayed on the front table, pretending they were books. At one point they were both climbing all over me and squeezing my nose, my son yelling, “ME BLOCKING YOUR SMELLING!” He was consumed in a fit of laughter. A girl sitting quietly across from us asked, “Are they always like that?” I laughed and said, “Yeah! They have fun together.” But when I saw her face I realized she wasn’t asking in a nice way. I could tell she didn’t have children, because she had clearly not heard of my revolutionary new parenting technique called “ABS” or “Anything But Screaming.”

My husband and I have developed this life-changing technique over the course of the past 2 years, and when we sat down to write our sure to be bestselling book on the topic, we realized that all the information you need is way too short for a book and decided to pass it on to you absolutely free of charge. Basically all you do is let your child do anything they want, as long as nobody is screaming (and also as long as they’re not hurting themselves I guess, but that would probably involve screaming at some point so instead of ABSOHTOO or “Anything But Screaming Or Hurting Themselves Or Others” let’s just call it “Anything But Screaming” as people with small children have limited space left in their temporal lobes to remember long acronyms).

This technique was inspired by our second child, who is loud. So, so loud. Don’t get me wrong, he is the sweetest little boy who has ever walked the face of the earth, but there is just no getting around his loudness. Our downstairs neighbor once texted me at 2 in the afternoon asking if we were practicing the sleep training technique “cry it out.” At 2 pm. It was very difficult to explain that our toddler was upset because he had asked for a bite of peanut butter on a spoon, and I had given him too big of a bite. So I scraped some back into the jar, handed him the spoon, but this time it was too small of a bite. This proved to be too much for him, as he wailed, “I wanted a MEDIUM bite!!” There was no getting him back after that. He was in full non-medium peanut butter bite meltdown mode, and nothing could stop him. To further put this in perspective, you know how scientists say one of the only sounds that can break the sound barrier is a jet engine? Well let’s just say that those scientists have never met my son. I’m pretty sure that jet engine could peacefully lull me to sleep after the experience I had with my son as a baby.

So how do you implement this genius plan? Let me give you a few examples:

Did your child just grab a jar of Nutella from the grocery store shelf, somehow ripped it open and is now happily eating it with his bare hands? Take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “I was going to buy Nutella anyway. Good idea, buddy. Anything but screaming.”

Is your child currently writing all over his entire body (mostly his face) with a permanent marker just as you’re leaving for school? Take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “Look at how creative he looks. Anything but screaming.”

Are your kids laughing in the tub while playing tug-of-war with a wash cloth in their mouths, ingesting dirty bath water in the process? Take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “That totally helps their immune systems. Anything but screaming.”

Are you on the train with your child in the stroller who has just finished eating a granola bar and is now eating the wrapper as well? Take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “Those organic companies totally use biodegradable wrappers. That’s like, their whole thing. Anything but screaming.”

And referring to the photo above, are you at a coffee shop with your children, one who has not had their nap today, and the only thing keeping that adorable smile on his face is the fact that you’re allowing him to take his sweater off and rub hot chocolate all over his bare chest? Take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “I’m making all the other parents in here with fully dressed children feel like REALLY good parents. Maybe they were questioning their parenting abilities, and this gave them the dose of confidence they needed. It’s my good deed for the day. And look at how happy my kids are. Anything but screaming.”

Good luck out there.