Monday, May 30, 2011

The One by the Swing Set

Our job as parents is to teach our children how to live - what's right, what's wrong, and all the tips we've gleaned during our decades of experience living life.

Some of the lessons are simple:

Don't talk to strangers.
Wear your seatbelt.
Use a napkin.

Others are a bit more complicated:

Look both ways before crossing the street.
Give it some gas with your right foot while letting the clutch out with your left foot.
Lather, rinse, THEN repeat.

And still others you never imagined you'd have to teach:

Don't use your safety scissors to cut off the cat's whiskers.
KY jelly is not for polishing dollhouse furniture.
You don't want to win a game called, "How many kernels of corn can fit up my nose?"

Perhaps nothing strikes guilt into the heart of a parent more than realizing you haven't taught your child a basic safety rule before it's too late. Case in point: when my daughter was just two years old we attended a birthday party for a five-year-old. All the kids were older save for my kid and the birthday girl's little brother. It was an outdoor birthday party, and there was a swing set. You see where this is going? My husband was busy helping kids into the bounce house, and I was across the yard when I looked up to see my tiny little girl getting kicked in the head - not once, but twice - as she walked right in front of the swing set as an older child was swinging.

Ever since, I've tried to avoid playgrounds.

But yesterday I took the kiddo to another backyard birthday party. From my vantage point in a patio chair next to the refreshment table I didn't notice the swing set at first, but the world went into slow motion as I watched her make her way towards it. I sprang from my chair and got to her while she stood contemplating the slide. I crouched down to her level and told her to be sure to walk around the swings when someone was on them. Then I took her hand and showed her the path she should take to get around safely. I breathed a sigh of relief when she decided to try the bounce house instead.

Later, while I was chatting up some of the other parents, I saw her out of the corner of my eye. I held my breath and white-knucked the arms of my plastic patio chair while she edged her way around the front of children's swinging feet on her way to the slide steps. A dramatic sigh left my lips, and my heart pounded.

For the rest of the afternoon she carefully navigated her way around the swings, and I sat watching her, amazed and grateful that she took this lesson to heart. No sooner did I let my guard down than she came running towards me, tears streaming down her face. She hadn't walked in front of the swings. In fact, she had gotten on a swing by herself, but she forgot to hold on to the chains as she took her first big swing forward. The poor thing toppled backwards onto the ground like a weeble-wobble. (Wait, "weebles wobble but they don't fall down...") Well, anyway. You get the idea.


Add "hang on to swing chains at all times" to the list of lessons I've yet to teach her.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The One Where the Kid Turns Four.

Tomorrow the kid turns four years old. I can't help but think back to what was going on exactly four years ago. Right about now, I was 5 cm dilated and realizing the pain medication that was administered through my i.v. was not cutting the mustard. I would go on to request and receive a blessed epidural and after pushing for 30 minutes, our six-and-a-half pound girl emerged at 9:58am.

I'm amazed how she's changed in just four years. In less than the time it took me to graduate college, my kid has basically gone from a helpless loaf of bread to a fully-functioning human being. She's learned to walk, talk, count, and stop crapping her pants. She can draw, ride a tricycle, get her own snacks, brush her teeth, and dress herself. She loves playdough, the outdoors, and Scooby Doo.

She is made almost entirely of yogurt for the sheer amount of it she ingests.

She makes me laugh daily - like today, when we ran out of ice cream bars. Without missing a beat she asked in all seriousness, "Can I have some dog ice cream?' (we buy Frosty Paws, a canine ice cream treat for our dog).

She hates to have her hair brushed, and she eats meat so seldom it prompted my mother-in-law to ask me if our kid is a vegetarian. My reply? "No, she's three."

But she's not anymore - she's FOUR. Which, again, just blows my mind. For all the complaining I do over the challenge that is motherhood, I cannot be more proud to be this kid's mom.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The One on Mother's Day.

Four years ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and by doing so I have earned the right to be one of the many women who receives an annual holiday in honor of her motherly duties. It's a holiday that celebrates the blessing that is family and our contribution to the upbringing of our kidlets. My husband falls into the category of men who want to make this day, "all about the Mom," which is incredibly sweet and thoughtful, and yet another reason (among many) that I consider myself oh-so lucky to be his wife.

So, why is it that on Mother's Day the only thing I want to do is to get as far away from my family as possible?

It started last night, really. My husband is quite in tune with his body and can pinpoint the very moment a little sniffle becomes a full-blown cold. As so it was, last night, just after we got the kid to go to sleep that he sneezed and all bets were off. The Cold had made itself known.

This morning when our daughter woke up at 6:30, I somehow convinced her to lay back down and sleep a bit more (a parenting triumph), and when I found her, 45 minutes later, at my bedside saying, "It's good morning time!" I decided to get up with her and let my husband and his cold sleep in.

The morning came and went with little fanfare. After lunch, the kid and I spent a couple of hours outside in the gorgeous sunshine while my husband wallowed indoors. Once back inside, I attempted a nap. I will confess I got in a good hour before my husband came into the bedroom to tag out.

It took me the next two hours to watch a single episode of House Hunters International for the number of times my child, who was supposed to be napping, interrupted me.

She wanted a snack. The she wanted a drink. Then she wanted me to cover her with the blanket. The she needed to pee. Then she heard some thunder. Then she needed to poop. Then she wanted a magazine to read on the potty (I'm not kidding). Then she didn't want the kind of crackers I gave her, but a different kind. Then she was cold and needed help putting on a sweatshirt. The she didn't want to wear pants. Then she wanted to play with the iPad.

Then I put on shoes, told my husband I was, "going away," and I left, computer in tow.

Fortunately for both of us, the kid did something insanely cute and endearing each time I was about to go over the edge. Like when we finished putting her (hooded) sweatshirt on, she promptly pulled up her hood, took off her pants, and waddled back down the hall to her room in her underwear. She looked ready for a snowball fight from the waist up and a seaside beach from the waist down.

The thing is: being a parent is hard. It's just so. much. effort. I remember telling my husband when we began talking about such things as family and the future that I wasn't sure I wanted to have children. As the years went by, I felt a primal urge to procreate that I cannot explain, but perhaps my friend, Abby, put it best when she stated, "Motherhood is falsely advertised."

When I think about it, parenthood really isn't all that heavy on the payback. You have moments of heart-swelling love for sure, but the daily grind of parenthood can be vicious and soul-sucking. And no matter how much love and care and organic food you put into it, at the end of the day there is no guarantee that your children are going to turn out to be happy, successful, well-adjusted people.

The fact is that I can't focus on that stuff. The future is going to be what it's going to be. In the meantime, I'll do my best to recognize the moments of wonder amidst the tediousness that is Motherhood. And occasionally I'll escape to a coffee shop. That'll be good, too.

Happy Mother's Day.