Tuesday, January 24, 2012

That was Then... This is Now

No, I am not referring to the S.E. Hinton novel (cousin Jewels, that's a little shout out to you). Rather,  I am talking about just how much life changes when you become a parent. 

You see, Mike and I were joking with William the other night that we would be returning him to the baby store as we were dissatisfied with our purchase and Mike said, "we could take Elizabeth back too!"  I followed that with, "we could take a vacation," he topped with "we could take a cruise!" and I nearly shouted in temporary delirious excitement "we could go back to IRELAND!!".  And suddenly... it hit me.  Life is SO different now.  Everything has taken on another meaning.  The world looks different.  Children change EVERYTHING.  The thought followed me around today as I giggled to myself about how something like the phrase "all nighter" has changed with age and parenthood.  Then I began to make myself a list of all of those changes. 

Parents... enjoy. 

Then: this is staying up all night to write a paper you waited til the laaaaaast minute to write, partying all night or staying up all night just to see the sun rise.
Now: this is because your colicky baby LITERALLY does not sleep all night, staying up with a child who is vomiting every 15 minutes ALL through the night, or being the kind of insane parent who sews, knits or builds some special project for your kid and seriously underestimating how long it will take to finish

Then: This is having consumed too much of a mind or mood alternating substance either legal or illegal in nature.
Now: This is trying to put the milk away in the laundry room, trying to start your car with toy keys, wearing two different shoes all day without realizing it, making up words to the Curious George book you're reading because your vision is blurred from exhaustion, handing your husband a sippy cup and your daughter a pilsner glass, or laughing hysterically when your kid swears not because it's funny, but because you're too tired to do something else.  No substance required, the lack of quality sleep does the trick.

Then: This is the phrase you list on your resume because you've juggled a multi-line phone with filing, handled a high pressure job that involves dealing with the public in the worst of circumstances, etc.
Now: This is squatting down and balancing a nursing child in one arm and helping a potty-training toddler with the other hand to sit on the potty, wipe, flush, dress and wash hands.  This is fashioning a device out of your nursing bra and stretchy shirt to hold a pump in place so you can pump breast milk, make dinner, hold a baby and do a puzzle with your 3 year old at the same time.  This is alternating being Princess Leia and The Fairy Godmother so that you can play with two kids at the same time and keeping one ear on one story line and the other ear on the other story line so you can jump accurately from character to character.

Then:  One in a dimly lit restaurant that requires fancy dress and costs more than it honestly should.
Now: One wherein there are no time-outs are given, 80% or more of the food makes it into human mouths rather than the dog's, I do not utter the phrases "less talk more eat," "smaller bites," "two hands on your cup," "sit properly in your chair," "chew with your mouth closed," etc more than 10 times, I don't have to explain what "the green thing" is or where food is not-so-subtly pushed around because it doesn't meet the discerning palate of a child barely old enough to wipe their own butt.

Then: Taken because you are feeling under the weather, drank too much the night before, want to ditch work, got last minute concert tickets out of town, etc. you sleep in, stay on your couch watching movies or go somewhere fun but far enough away you won't get caught.
Now: Forget "sick days", you don't get them any more.  Now this is one or more family members huddled together, voluntarily quarantined while some vomit or mucus or fever super-bug renders you all semi-conscious and LUCKY is if a) you have enough toilets that you don't start using buckets, bowls, etc and/or b) the bug has rendered the kids as weak as you are because otherwise sick kids run around like maniacs with bodily fluids flying willy-nilly while you can barely move and you pray that you have enough episodes of Phineas and Ferb on your DVR that you might get some sleep or at least get to stop moving for a while.

Then: The hot guy or girl in your class, the first sunny spring day when you live in a rainy place, the dress you always wanted, a sunset on a date, seeing a shooting star.
Now: Your baby the first time you hold him/her, the sound of your kids laughing together, your kid's first smile (and really, every smile after that), the sound of your baby's cry when he/she is delivered after some complications and you're terrified they won't make it, that picture of your child's tiny, tiny hand in their father's.

Phrase: BREAK
Then: This word follows Winter, Spring or Summer and signifies when you get to party, vacation, go back home or let loose.
Now:  5 minutes alone on the toilet, an uninterrupted shower, 10 minutes in the doctor's office waiting room, when your kick-ass husband takes the kids out for a few hours so you don't go bat-shit insane.

Phrase: LOUD
Then: Your neighbor's party the night before your biggest final, the a-hole's car down the street because he thinks it's cool to drive sans muffler or "trick out" his Toyota Tercel.
Now: Your kids 99.9% of the time.  They will speak at heretofore unthinkable decibels even if you're sitting RIGHT next to them.  They do not come with volume controls.  Just warning you now.

Phrase: MESS
Then: Your apartment after a party, your room because cleanliness comes last after classes, boyfriends, extra-curricular activities, etc. your car because you neglected to dispose of the most recent McDonald's evidence or you're so busy you often carry a change of clothes.
Now: Any room, seat at the table, vehicle or item of clothing that your small child has spent more than 5 minutes in.  Be prepared for an array of petrified snacks, spoiling liquids, bodily fluids and mystery substances.

Phrase: LOVE
Then: That jumpy feeling in your stomach when you're falling for someone, sharing your dessert even when it's your favorite, making reservations somewhere special on Valentine's Day, that strange euphoria/oh-shit panic combo you feel when you know you've found "the one."
Now: The literal, PHYSICAL ache you feel during an unwanted separation from your child, attempting to sleep all night in an upright position so your kid can breathe when they're sick, sharing tears with your preschooler because he comes home sad and says, "no one wanted to play with me today," giving up a boys/girls night out because your kid's face when they ask for a special "family night" or a special "mommy or daddy date" is so heartbreakingly precious that you forget you need a break.

Phrase: HEAVEN
Then: Falling asleep on the beach because the sun is so warm, a vacation in a beautiful place, a perfect date, a massage.
Now: That moment before you fall asleep and you hear soft breathing on the monitor and know everyone is safe, sitting with a flashlight in a blanket fort with a kid cuddled under each arm reading a story, teeny arms wrapped around your neck while a little voice says, "I love you mommy" and a little hand in yours while you walk on a gorgeous summer day while a little voice says, "I'm so glad you get to stay home with me now mommy".

Life has indeed changed.  I am immune to vomit, poop, spit, mucus and pee.  I often scream myself hoarse not because my children are horrible, but I'm so short on sleep I cannot handle even a little bit of misbehavior.  I take showers at 10:30 at night or 6:00 in the morning if I want a GUARANTEE it won't be interrupted.  Vacations now involve mouse ears instead of tropical locales.  I know the theme songs to Phineas & Ferb, Dinosaur Train, Olivia, Caillou, Super Why, My Little Pony and Curious George.  I worry incessantly about my kid's health, sanity, happiness and safety.

Am I complaining?  Nope.  See above definitions of Love and Heaven.  Ain't life grand?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Penalty... excessive celebration

This title is in honor of my son, who loves football to a degree that still baffles me.  But then, a lot baffles me these days.  I'm a mom.  My brain is fried.

What is excessive celebration?  You know... the ridiculous victory dance, spiking the ball, the stupid gyrating that fame-hungry or over-testosterone-pumped players do when a camera is on them.  OR it's what you stupidly do as a parent before God takes you down a peg.  Football players get penalized some yardage... parents lose sanity points.

New parents, let me give you a tip.  Don't congratulate yourself.  EVER. Don't think you've mastered ANYTHING.  Because children are there to make sure you realize that you know NOTHING.  You are guessing, stumbling in the dark, conducting a life-long sociological study, screwing up, falling down, and basically racking up future therapy bills.  Yours or theirs.  Take your pick.

Now, you can see this as a negative.  Or you can look at it as an opportunity to learn, laugh at yourself, gain a whole new appreciation for your parents or to have fabulous fodder for a blog.  Quite honestly, I often veer toward the negative and then try to steer the crazy-Mariska ship in a more fruitful direction.  But lately it's been hard.  Really hard.  So hard I actually forgot about being thankful that I was home with my kids and wanted to return to work.  I realized I longed for work that involved schedules, adult conversation, BREAKS, sick days, vacations and the ability to GET AWAY, clock out and leave for the day.  The kind of work where home was a refuge and holidays were a change of pace.  Motherhood is NOT that job.  I had been able, until recently, to accept that that was the sacrifice I made becoming a mom rather than holding an office job. 

You see, I made the mistake of starting my victory dance a few months ago.  I had the kids teachers, strangers in restaurants, parents in play groups, etc. complimented.  I was the mom people called "together" or "organized".  No longer. The whistle blew and I've been penalized for excessive celebration. God took me down a peg and now this little control freak is having to learn how to roll with punches and frankly, I'm getting tired of the bruises.

So why am I losing it?  I can't tell you folks.  I don't know.  I've just turned a new corner and this little Alice is ready to leave this part of Wonderland.  William has become my misdirected energy/bad attitude/smart mouth/disrespectful son and Elizabeth is my mood-swing/increasing tantrums/incredibly clingy/I'm-starting-to-wonder-if-she-has-some-kind-of-sensory-issue daughter.  I know kids have their good and bad days and I was handling it.  But this past couple weeks, EVERY DAY one of them gave me trouble.  They were kind enough to alternate days so it wasn't both at the same time, but that was little comfort.  I honestly began to think, "Okay, I suck at this job.  I will put get them back in with a caregiver who can help them better than I can."  I felt defeated, deflated and tired.  Why?  Here's a snapshot:

William as of late:
Me - William get up it's a school Day.
William - I'm too tired.
Me - Too bad, time to get up.
William - NOOOOO!   It's too cold!
Me - Put some clothes on and you'll be warm.  No one asked you to sleep in your undies.
William - But my LEGS HURT.
Me - Get up and dressed and I'll give you some Tylenol.  Now move.
William - BUT I'M STARVING!!!
Me- So get up and you can eat.  Now, stop shouting, quit complaining about being tired when you choose to stay awake during nap time, put some clothes on and come downstairs when you can be polite to me.  I'm getting your sister ready and heading downstairs.
William (hysterical) - DON'T GO DOWNSTAIRS WITHOUT ME, I'M SCARED!!!
Me - So. Calm. Down. Get. Dressed. LISTEN and come with me.  I'm done with the attitude.  Get moving. NOW.
William - but I'm too TIRED!
I can't take it anymore and start walking downstairs.  William's yelling turns to a fever-pitched-cry-yell combo
This little event will repeat itself with the conversation variants revolving around his goofing off rather than brushing his teeth and putting on socks and shoes for school, cleaning up toys and using the potty before naps, cleaning up toys and feeding the dog before dinner and heading up stairs for bath and stories before bed.  I'm thinking of buying a whistle at this point and teaching him some basic whistle commands like in drill team because my voice just can't take much more.

Now a recent snapshot of miss Elizabeth:
She wakes in the morning totally happy and first words out of her mouth, "we have to take Bubba to school today?"
Me - yup.  (I begin carrying her toward the bathroom and she goes jelly-like in my arms and her voice is instantly in the glass-shattering range)
Elizabeth - NOOOOOO!  I don't have to go potty!  Nooooooo!  Noooooo! (the cries are only stopped by the "singing" of her potty because she has IN FACT gone pee).
Me - Good job, let me get your undies.
Elizabeth - I don't have to POOOOOOP!  I poop in a diaper.
Me - I said nothing about poop.  I'm getting your undies and clothes, calm down.
Elizabeth - I don't want clothes.  Can I be a princess?
Me - No sweety, it's FREEZING outside.  When we get back from taking Bubba, you can be in a costume.
Elizabeth - I want to be NAY-KEEEEEE (naked).  She's now running around sans pants, not wiped, dripping pee all over my bathroom.
Me - Elizabeth SIT DOWN.  I tell you every day.  Sit down on the potty and wait for mommy. 
She explodes into a puddle of tears, drool, snot and is lying face down on the floor.  I wipe her, wrestle undies and clothes onto her and she suddenly bear hugs me getting her tear/snot/spit combo all over my hair, cheek and shirt.
Elizabeth - you happy mommy?  Don't be mad.
Me - Elizabeth, I just need you to focus and listen to...
I stop.  She can't even hear me.  She's distracted by something.  This child who cannot BEAR the sound of the hairdryer, car wash, blender, food processor or sometimes just the sound of her brother talking or singing is suddenly deaf.  She honestly can't hear a word I say.  I clap really loudly and she snaps back to me, jumping out of her skin.
Me- ELIZABETH.  Focus.  Look in my eyes.  Are you listening to me?
It's too late.  She's entered another dimension.  She can't hear me anymore.  I tell her to wash her hands and have to physically pull her back into the bathroom because she has not heard me and she collapses from my touch screaming "OW!!!"
This is my whole day with her.  She's either speaking in a volume so incredibly loud I need earplugs or plugging her own ears and shouting "stop it!  that hurts my ears!!!"  She's playing with other kids one minute and then commanding them to leave her alone the next.  She turns on a dime.  And eating with her now is torture.  She no longer has her vomiting issue, but she still has issues putting too much in her mouth and then being totally confused by her gag reaction.  She still spits out certain textures.  She still has trouble handling her utensils.  She still has trouble realizing when she's full.  And potty training?  Forget it.  Pee is fine, but poop is another story.  She honestly cannot figure out her bowels in a seated position.  She can do it standing with a diaper on.  But seated?  Nope.  She makes noises and is confused as to why it's not working.  She cannot figure out how to use her body to do it.  I'm at the point where I'm just waiting.  Is it a control issue?  Is it her constant trouble with constipation?  Or is it something bigger along with the noises and food that I'll have to address with a doctor?  I don't know.  I'm too tired to figure it out right now.

And William?  Is it just being 5 1/2 that makes him run around like a crazy person, disrespect Mike and I, be in constant look-at-me mode and fight incessantly during play dates?  Or do I need to do something different?  I don't know.

I'm so tired right now the answers elude me.  I'm treading water, hoping to get the strength to swim again soon.  After all, it could be worse.  I could have a child with major special needs.  I could have been barren.  I could be struggling through a horrible marriage on top of all this.  But I was able to conceive.  I don't think my kids have special needs.  I'm in a happy marriage.  I have to remember that.  As my friend Monica says... "just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."