Food, Glorious Food

The profession of preparing food is extremely male dominant.  Seriously, think of it – do a quick google search and type in: famous chefs, and you’ll see tons and tons of men.  There’s always Julia Child in there, and of course Rachael Ray and that little Giada woman who cooks delicious looking things, but from the looks of her, she only tastes it and doesn’t eat a slovenly portion like the rest of us, but I digress.

 

Fact of the matter is, in so many homes (may I venture to say the VAST majority) the mom is the cook.  And the mom is often frustrated by the fact that she not only does all the preparing, as in from store to table (because most of us don’t live on a farm, mmmmkay?) as well as menu planning and actually cooking and plating the meals.   Then dad makes Walking Tacos ONCE and the children think he’s not only the best cook in the world but that he is also the most fun human being because eating tacos out of a Doritos bag is WAY more fun than a balanced dinner of healthy chicken, brussel sprouts, and salad.

 

These little humans who we are responsible for keeping alive have to eat every. damn. day.  Multiple times a day and let’s be honest, that gets friggin exhausting! And while the chef profession is male-dominated and men of the industry are often praised above their female counterparts, lauded in fact, when we hear people reminisce or miss a certain food, it is almost always, “My mom’s chicken pot pie.”  “My grandmother’s sweet potato pie.” We all love our mama’s cooking and remember the special recipes, so how come mamas don’t get more credit.

 

A girlfriend of mine was talking about pizza bagels – they are the one thing she can ever recall her dad “making” and she said to be honest it was just a bag of bagels and a jar of sauce put out on the counter- everyone got to make their own(!) – but she and her siblings thought it was magic!  Mamas in their homes are trying to insure the kiddos get good nutrients, plenty of protein, calcium, iron, etc. etc. etc. While it seems their counterparts are concerned with convenience and (dare I say) delicousness? Because don’t get me wrong I’ll take a bag of Walking Tacos over grilled chicken breast and steamed spinach most any day, so why wouldn’t my offspring?

 

Now, now before the in-home cooking dads get your hair nets all in a twist, I acknowledge there are plenty of homes where partners split the responsibility, alternate nights, or plan together.  (But I really don’t think that’s the majority – and no, David, I didn’t take a Doodle Poll, I’m assuming and it’s my blog so I get to – so there.)

 

Why then, when we’re making delicious Chicken Picatta with a fresh Heirloom Tomato salad for a special dinner night are we not celebrated the way Guy Fieri is over a damn hamburger?  Why are all the most celebrated cooks special dudes at Le Cirque? Is it because the restaurant industry functions primarily on nights and weekends? The exact time our children are home and we crave that time with them?  Possibly. Are women deciding cooking for their offspring is more important than for a food critic? Also possible and highly likely. And good for the mama kitchen warriors who are at it – chopping and sauteing and crock potting for your families – I salute you!

 

What the hell is my point?  Celebrate the nourisher in your life – and if you are the nourisher demand celebration.  Remind everyone that food doesn’t just fall out of the sky onto the table ready to be consumed.  In the beloved Christmas movie A Christmas Story – the narrator says, “My mother had not had a hot meal for herself in 15 years.”  Teach your kids now that food is not just about filling their bellies, but a time for family to actually be nourished and that includes the chef – tummy nourished as well as soul.

 

And, listen, if you’re the mama who can’t tell a stock pot from a skillet and Trader Joe’s frozen aisle is your best friend – just read the late Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential – and rest assured that even the chefs at Eleven Madison Park have their secrets too.

 

A Texas Politician and a Colorado Mama

As a kid I saw my father enter into, and subsequently lose, two elections in the mountains of Colorado. One for Garfield County Sheriff and again for County Commissioner of the same county. Garfield County, especially in those years, but even still now, is a a rural, aging, “For Love of God and Country,” type of place. As a kid I experienced my white peers using some of the most vile and racist terms imaginable in everyday conversations. My parents, like my grandmother before them, were “Yellow-dog Democrats” and still are to this day. For a time my dad chaired the county’s democratic party, both my parents were involved in civic life, trying to make our town, our community, and our county a better place.

As mentioned, we lost. To be honest he didn’t stand a chance. I think my dad didn’t even believe he’d win the Sheriff’s race, but I know he thought he had a shot at commissioner – and he worked his ass off to get there. And nevertheless we couldn’t pull off a victory. By the time my dad was running for Commissioner, I was in college at The University of Texas (the greatest university on the planet – as stated by the commencement speaker at my graduation). I had become a citizen of Texas and would cast a ballot that November in hopes of Al Gore becoming the next president of the United States – mind you, W was governor of the state I was voting in at the time – talk about having no shot of winning – poor Al, not in Texas, buddy. That didn’t stop myself or my friends from voting for him, and later driving past the Governor’s mansion shouting “Gore Got More,” every chance we got.

I have believed in the power of free and fair elections and our civic duty to vote since before I was able to cast a ballot myself. I believe in people and that while I don’t agree with their views on certain things, those beliefs come from somewhere, some experience that means something to them. I believe in Democracy, fair discourse, and good old Southern manners. I have never skipped an opportunity to vote, I’ve voted absentee when needed, by mail, by early drop off, and by showing up at the polls. This is all to say, I hold dear that all people have a voice – and using it is important.

Early in this midterm election cycle an inspiring young Democratic Congressman from the great state of Texas began to get attention due to his bid for the much despised by people in my party, Ted Cruz’s seat in the US Senate. Now, y’all, Texas has been Red for a hot minute, and while he was so inspirational I, like many others, thought there was just no way. No chance, not in Ted Cruz Texas in Donald Trump America. Then this campaign began to pick up speed, and the name Beto O’Rourke began to be recognized by people all over the United States, not to mention the world. People like myself began to follow diligently, donate money, and pin our hopes for the future of Texas and a beam of sunlight for the United States Senate. In short, I became part of the Beto base – and followed his race more closely than some races in my home state of Colorado.

Here’s what I learned about myself watching this campaign, this man and his team, and Texas. While in the shadow of the America we allowed, the Trump America, the Cruz America, the Kavanaugh America, myself, like so many other people had become beaten by the destructive evil of our America. The racism and bullying have become a daily occurrence that starts at the top and trickles down. However, there are still people like Beto O’Rourke out there. People who still believe in others, even in the red state of Texas. There were the hopeful faces seen through his open sharing on Facebook Live where we got to meet the people of Texas and see exactly what and who he was fighting for.

And he lost. And I was heartbroken for Texas and America and what future I had to explain to my boys when once again, fear and divisiveness, bullying and lies, defeated hope and good.

Then the Wednesday after election day, Beto did another Facebook Live, this time in a t-shirt and ball cap, in his family kitchen, with his amazing team and kids all hanging around and he said:
“Losing this election doesn’t diminish my faith in Texas or in this country.”

It’s then I realized, neither does it mine. My brother-in-law once said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s not our job to diminish evil in the world, it’s our job to go on being good people in spite of it.”

I had forgotten that, and thanks to Beto O’Rourke and his family, his community in El Paso, and his team, I remember.

So I vow to not be diminished and not in a “Smash the Patriarchy” way that I had been raging, but in the way I was raised: Lift your head and your voice and your hope and the hopes of others around you. Because Beto’s vision and leadership is what I want to see more of in our communities and especially in our leaders. So, thank you Beto, and Texas, for showing me and my kids there is still hope in the world and there are good people going on doing the good work in spite of all the obstacles we face. And to all of the good people out there, Democrat or Republican, thank you for committing to serving your communities, whether I agree with your policies or not.

The Screen and the Babies

 

The increase of screen time the children are seeing is shocking, toxic, bad for mental health, and to me, a bit sad.  It’s such an addiction for these littles there are neighborhood kids who don’t want to hang out and play at our house because we don’t allow any video games in the summer.  And that’s a problem. Not for my husband and I, but for our kids. While the youngers are usually happy to play outdoors, go to the park, run through the sprinkler, or figure something out to do (I’m in the camp of it’s good for kids to be bored – if you’re in the other camp, that’s totally cool too and I can see that side – idle hands and all that) it’s the olders, the pre-pubescent age group that are seriously unable (or unwilling) to play other than on some kind of console.

 

Lookit.  I get it.  It’s really difficult to regulate screens when all the kids have some kind of device or other situation and that’s what all the kids talk about and even when they are playing not on the device they’re playing the make believe version of the game!  It’s also really convenient when your kiddo gets to an age they can stay home alone to be able to leave them. And aside from taking the thing with you or locking it up in a cabinet, it’s going to be difficult to regulate screen time whether it be television or gaming on a console, a device, or a computer.  

 

At the end of the last school year, my older son told me, “It’s embarrassing – I have to lie and tell my friends I’ve played it,” (it being the horrible and disgusting Fortnite).  To which I replied, “Too bad, tell them your mom is mean and strict.” And that’s just exactly how I feel. Too bad and maybe I am sometimes mean and strict – but they don’t get unregulated access to crap games and they also can’t eat Oreos for breakfast.

 

Ok, so now you’re like – oh great, another mom mom-shaming and judging and that’s exactly what I thought this blog wasn’t.  So I want to acknowledge – I have judged and judged heavily, although silently. The mama I see with her toddler in the shopping cart and instead of teaching the little about the fruits and vegetables or listening to him ramble on and on about hermit crabs, she hands him her phone and plugs him in so she can shop in peace.  The families who are on vacation, but are each plugged into their own device, even leaning over to share the screen with one another over a funny video or meme. My judgement in no way makes me right and them wrong. Maybe the mama in the store has a husband who is deployed and she’s so exhausted even getting to the store was a challenge and this is the only screen time the toddler will have all week.  Maybe the teenagers on the family vacation are so used to their parents being plugged in they have no other version of normal, and that’s just what they know and if they didn’t have their face in their devices, they wouldn’t be getting any attention anyway.

I don’t know their stories.  What I do know is it starts with us adults.  I take my phone everywhere – and will turn my car around to go back and get it should I forget it.  I look at it while waiting for my cup of tea, or my hair appointment, or if I get self-conscious while waiting for someone.  I have pledged when I am out with friends to never have it sitting out on the table and always to make sure it’s not a part of our family’s evening time.  But my children see both my husband and I plugged in all of the time, and it’s just showing them this is how the world works, this is how adults are – we’re busy and you don’t matter unless you can post on Twitter or Insta.  

 

The staggering numbers of depressed kids, kids that can’t connect, suffering from ADD, obesity and any number of other ailments comes from us, the parents.  While we won’t let them eat Oreos for breakfast why do we let them have unlimited access to Vines and memes? Not to mention elementary school kids with smartphones and Instagram accounts.  It’s not healthy for them and it’s eventually going to be not healthy for us.

 

I want my kids, just like most parents do, to grow up and be engaged, interesting and interested, and have the ability to form real connections.  I also acknowledge the world is changing and we have to keep up with it. Hell, most of the young people migrating to our city work in some kind of software position.  Maybe the personal connecting and the love of the outdoors and the want to ride on a real roller coaster and not a virtual reality roller coaster will be so outdated by the time they’re setting out on their life it’ll be as antiquated as asking someone out for a drink instead of swiping right.

 

I don’t know – the whole damn world’s going to hell in a handbasket.  But what would it be if you didn’t even try – you have to try – so I’m putting my phone away, keeping the console locked up until the end of summer or maybe until it snows, maybe even giving the shit away.  Because that’s all I know to do to avoid all of the pitfalls that seem to come from not being able to just get outside and play ball with your buddies.

 

And thank you for reading this on your screen of choice, I appreciate the time.  See what I did there?

 

Wait Just a Minute

Yesterday my son came home from school and told me he had something for me.  We opened up his backpack and he pulled out all the end-of-the-school year shit.  Notebooks, papers, precious art work, and a bunch of stuff that really should have been recycled at school, and I said, “Great!  Thanks, buddy – I’m glad you brought all this home. We can even recycle some of this for your brother next year.” And he shook his head, and handed me a plain white piece of paper, cut in a heart and folded down the middle – it read:

“Mom, You are the greatest thing that ever happened to me.  You are so nice and an amazing mom. I love you.”

And of course I crumpled.  He has been in elementary school for literally seven years over these years there have been many class craft projects meant as a gift for parents.  I’ve seen some of the beautiful work of my friends’ kids – our boy? The notes he wrote were either nonexistant or literally copied exactly from what the teacher had put on the board, the artwork shoddy at best, and let’s be honest not necessarily anything you’d want to hang on the fridge.  So today, even as I write this, my eyes fill with tears and I want to go pull him out of his classroom right now and squeeze him until his eyes bulge out of his head.

Here’s the thing – he’s leaving the 5th grade today and then he’ll never be in elementary school again.  And I’m not the super sentimental, cried at kindergarten drop-off, I miss my little baby kind of mom. But this one is harder somehow.  Now, all of a sudden we’re leaving his childhood behind and moving into another crazy phase where I once again have no idea what I’m doing (not that I ever did, but it does seem that little kids are more forgiving – or forgetful – than big kids).  This phase seems more like I can’t quite fuck it up anymore, because it’s going to stick if I do.

I have never lived with a sixth grade eleven-year-old prepubescent boy before.  As in never. I remember the boys from my sixth grade class, very vaguely, and without much sentiment – they could be pretty ok and they could be awful horrible mean and disgusting excuses for humans.  Already the hormones have been a doozy around casa de Schneeds and I know it’s just the beginning. Who knows – pull up a chair though, cuz this could get interesting.

So here I stand on the precipice of this new phase, and as with all moments of mom-ing I want to hold time just like it is.  Stop it. Keep him at this age. I hate it when people say, “enjoy every moment” because that’s stupid. But maybe notice as many as you can and try to remember, because soon enough the tiny baby who loved you the moooooooost in the world is at the Elitch’s waterpark all day on the first day of summer with his buddies and really all he needs from you is a $20 and a ride.

Metal

 

I literally have no idea what I’m doing. My current parenting goal is to prevent my sons from coming home from school when they are teenagers and when I ask how their day was they grunt and head into their room and the next thing I hear from behind their closed bedroom door is heavy metal. I know, it’s good to have goals. Especially such lofty ones.

But seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing. I want them to be happy and feel secure and also teach them to be responsible and kind and generous and blah blah blah. But, and I’ll say it the third time because it’s been proven that things in threes work out somehow (check out the Holy Trinity or if that’s not your thing, the Three Stooges) I have no idea what I’m doing.

And who amongst us does? Parenting experts? Depends on what their expertise says. And P.S. To quote a parent, “Everyone’s a parenting expert, until you have kids!” It’s like that Jillian Michaels writing a book on how to get your body back after having a baby – and um, y’all, she never had a baby. Her wife had the baby. And I’m not saying it’s not a fabulous book or workout program or whatever. I simply prefer to hear from a woman who had to actually “get her body back” and I don’t even know that I agree with all that, but I digress.

Pretending to know what’s best for the children, or how to help them properly and age appropriately navigate life’s challenges, is a total crap shoot and I don’t care who you are. There will be a Sunday night when I have nailed the weekend, and I mean killed it. I mommed the shit out of the weekend. Everyone had all the right uniforms and plenty of snacks and got enough rest, got along splendidly, we ate at the table all together Sunday night and the children are clean and tucked happily into their beds, and I’m like – yeah I could write one of those parenting books. Then, for some unknown reason, perhaps it’s because his sock wrinkled up the wrong way during the night or the planets decided to realign whilst we all slept, but the older wakes up on Monday and hates EVERYONE – but mostly his little brother and no one will get dressed or put on their shoes or brush their teeth and now we’re running late and I end up yelling, “Why do I always have to yell to get things done? Why can’t y’all do it the first 5 times when I ask nicely?!?!” Then the car ride to school is silent and I remember I actually, yes you guessed it, have no idea what I’m doing.

Let’s just put all the cards on the table here. No matter what parenting “philosophy” we subscribe to, we’re still just winging it. Sometimes we know for sure we aren’t doing something the way our parents did – because it was traumatizing or just felt wrong. Sometimes we take a page from our parents’ book and model a certain parenting behavior around theirs. But even then, they were winging it. For several generations parenting wasn’t a verb as we treat it now. Kids were had, they were fed and clothed and bathed and maybe they played sports in school, maybe they took band, but they certainly weren’t “built” with a specific brand of parenting involved.

I’m happy that we are all so invested in how our kids are doing and if we’re parenting “right.” It’s terrifying to know that a good portion of the child’s college savings may have to go into the pocket of a therapist, but hey, that’s a reality I’ve resigned myself to. I have a good friend who has a magnet on her refrigerator that reads, You aren’t managing an inconvenience. You’re raising a human being. That seems about right to me. She also happens to have one that reads, Parenting: When screwing up your own life just isn’t enough. And that’s it – both of them. Because while it’s a really important “job” it’s also a total rodeo where you’re not the cowboy nor the bull, but the rodeo clown whose job it is to make sure the bull doesn’t gore the cowboy while risking being gored yourself.

We have to laugh at ourselves because we’d cry our eyes out if we didn’t. That’s what I’m getting printed on a magnet for my fridge. I’ll put it next to the one gifted to me several years ago: Choosy moms choose beer. And I’ll try to remember to laugh every day both at myself and with the boys.

As far as the heavy metal goes, maybe I can learn to love it and we can listen together and talk about the lyrics? No, never mind that’s a terrible idea. As a mom I reserve the right to hate heavy metal and as teenage boys they reserve the right to their angsty teen years. Ugh. Let me go find my kerchiefs so I’m more attractive to the bull.

This Ain’t South Padre, That’s For Sure

 

The end of Girl Scout Cookie season is a really bittersweet time for me. Over the years, I’ve developed the perfect strategy – four boxes of cookies – but the children and the hubs only know about three. See where I’m going with this? Yep, that fourth box is a hidden treasure. Just for me. Each night after the goblins have (finally) gone to sleep I delicately enjoy my Thin Mint with either a cup of hot tea or alongside my Cabernet – both combinations are heavenly. Well, the Thin Mints are gone – have been for a few weeks and now I’m morose as I sadly slip into bed without my chocolatey minty delight – and neither Safeway, nor Whole Foods, nor Target can help – it’s just not the same. However, there is hope! It’s Spring Break and due to the fact that I suffer from dreadful mom-guilt (because there are all those pictures of amazing families on the beaches of Mexico while my kids are stuck in their Denver bungalow during Spring snow storms) it’s the perfect time to bake cookies!

Scene: Small Kitchen in an Urban Denver neighborhood. The trappings of cookie making lay on the counter – powdered sugar covers every surface, including the floor where we can see tiny person powdered sugar footprints leading off SR. Enter woman SR – covered in powdered sugar with fresh streaks down her face and cheeks – it’s unclear if she’s been crying or sweating. From off-stage we hear:

Child 1: (screaming almost hysterically) HE GOT TO DO TWO SCOOPS OF FLOUR AND ALL I GOT TO DO WAS ONE SPOON OF THE OTHER STUFF AND IT WAS A TINY SPOON!!

Child 2: (also from off stage, also shouting) GROW UP YOU BIG BABY!

Woman: (also shouting) I said no talking and stay in your rooms!!!

Woman looks at wall clock which reads 2:50, sinks to the floor, her back resting on the cabinet, buries her head in her hands and sighs the sigh only a mother with children on Spring Break can understand.

Slow fade to black.

This scene is from a biographical play based on real events. (Read: it’s an excerpt from my actual life.)

And the thing is if it weren’t for the Spring Break Guilt of trying to be so FUN! And CREATIVE! And MAKE MEMORIES! I probably could have happily (or begrudgingly) settled for some of the very delicious overpriced gourmet cookies from the gourmet grocers. Had I simply learned my lesson with the koolaid pancakes over Winter break or the Mud Pudding last summer. But noooooo. I refuse to accept that cooking projects with my children are neither fun, nor memory makers, nor a good chance to bond and learn. And again, the reason? Guilt. Mom-guilt. Kids-out-of-school and pinterest-makes-it-look-easy mom guilt.

Truthfully, they’re just as happy to go to the jump-til-you-barf place, get a slushy and play some video games. While these activities cost money and don’t necessarily involve us doing it together (but I will jump like a mo-fo), at least they have a good time and I don’t turn into an irritable mommy-monster who is now wishing it were bedtime and who hates cookies and baking cookies and chocolate and sugar and everything!!

Working mamas and stay at home mamas and part time mamas and single mamas and young mamas and old mamas and all of us experience this at some time or another. It’s just kind of hard wired. We so want the kids to be not only entertained but to have fun memories of doing things with their hands with their parents. I think our generation has it the hardest, because while my mama got Southern Living in the mail for most of my life, she didn’t have Facebook, and Instagram, and Pinterest to remind her all the time of all the things she wasn’t doing with my sister and I. Plus, she was good with plants and not only am I not a baker I sure as shit am not a gardener. (Don’t get me started on the fact I can’t keep a succulent alive.)

This Spring Break I’ve worked every day so far. Not full days, but the boys have been enrolled in full time Camp Daddy. And while no one has been hospitalized, let’s just say I don’t think we’ll be getting any applications from other parents for the summer camp. Tomorrow I’ll stay home with them all day and yes, we’ll go to jump-til-you-barf, and yes before that we’ll attempt to make Animal Faces toast (which then the little won’t want to eat because it’s all touching). I’ll think next year we’ll plan ahead and we’ll get to Mexico finally or we’ll VRBO it in Vail. And who knows? Maybe we will. But most likely we’ll be right back here and I’m going to have to say – f*ck it. They can be bored and learn to get along and play some video games because next week they’ll be back at school with the tests and the homework and so for now, it’s ok just to veg.

And I’ll need to repeat this mantra that it’s ok again and again. Because I need reassurance and cheerleading to help me thru this guilty feeling I have of not making memories. That then evolves into making cookies, that then evolves into yelling, that then evolves into feeling guilty for yelling, and then evolves into feeling guilty that I hate making cookies with my kids.

Ugh. The guilt.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to google that new place where they get to train to be America’s next American Ninja Warrior – because it’s Spring Break and we’re going to have fun, damn it.

Sticks and Stones

 

I’ve heard so much lately, “I suffered from Postpartum.” “My girlfriend is really struggling, I think she might have Postpartum.” “I had Postpartum with my second child.” Postpartum is not something you have, it’s not something you can suffer from. Postpartum simply means that you just had a baby. That’s it. Postpartum is a stage in the childbearing year. It does not in any sense of the word mean that you are suffering from Postpartum Depression. And here’s why this matters:

All mamas need support postpartum. All mamas, all daddies, all partners, and often all older siblings. Postpartum is the time after the baby is born that things seem crazy, out of whack, completely different, new, and maybe kinda scary. These feelings are normal, expected, and none of them mean something is “wrong”. The postpartum period often includes the “baby blues,” again totally normal, and again nothing is wrong. If we put too much weight into the word, “Postpartum” itself, it makes something totally normal and expected seem like something that needs to be treated or fixed.

Postpartum does not mean Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Anxiety. These two are perinatal mood disorders and are not simply the time after you’ve had the baby. Mamas who fall into this category may need more support than mamas not suffering. However, (and I’ll beat this point over the head until it’s unconscious) postpartum mamas – all postpartum mamas – need support.

That support comes in many forms, food for the new family, help with the laundry, holding the baby so mama can shower and get the baby poop breast milk smell off herself. It also means having people around who are supportive and loving so the mama can say, “This is hard.” “I’m exhausted, and I can’t even find my slippers much less that $70 nursing bra I was so excited to use. (Probably wouldn’t fit anyway, what with my boobs the size of cantalopes.)”

We need to connect so other mamas know that their partner isn’t the only idiot in the world who, for some reason, has recently lost the ability to recognize the trash is full and needs to go out and the dog hasn’t had an actual walk since the child was born, but somehow you’re the only one who’s aware of that? Not sleeping is frustrating, and being a milk machine is frustrating, and baby poop on everything is frustrating, and bottle washing is frustrating, and my haircut is frustrating, and the toddler’s loud breathing is frustrating, and whose idea was this anyway?! That, my friends is postpartum.

Partners and grandparents and well-meaning neighbors have all become stuck in thinking the word “postpartum” somehow means a mama is suffering from a mood disorder. No, she’s suffering from being in the fourth trimester of a pregnancy. She’s suffering from all the frustrations mentioned above. Ok, maybe not the haircut, but most of the other things. Support is necessary. So, if mama says she’s going to “Postpartum Support Group” don’t wig and call the therapist – be thankful she’s going – then she can get all her frustration out and come home feeling more human.

If, on the other hand, a mama is suffering from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, it’s no big deal. She needs the same support, just a little extra. She may need a visit to a doctor on top of support group, she may need extra sleep, or more time to herself. But let’s make sure to stop – all new parents are in the postpartum phase, and that is in no way a heavy word – it’s just what it is. Help the new parents in your world by lending a hand or an ear or some arms to hold an infant. Let the new parents know they aren’t alone, and if they are suffering, they don’t have to suffer alone. And if the mama is your partner and she seems to need a little extra help, educate yourself and don’t make her feel broken. She’s not broken, she’s exhausted and that fourth trimester is a bitch.

Yawn

 

Parenting a new infant is something else. It’s really just Something Else. It’s so difficult to explain to non-parents exactly what it’s like to bring home a tiny helpless human whose wellbeing is your sole responsibility. Plus you can’t get over the fact that there’s a tiny person here that is yours. As in your kid, your baby, yours forever and ever.

And when you bring the baby home, you have no idea what to do with it. You have to feed it all the time, and then it sleeps. But it won’t sleep in the bassinet, it won’t sleep in the bouncy thing your cousin Suzy swears by, it won’t sleep in it’s crib, or that doc-a-whatever, or the co-sleeper or ANYWHERE BUT ON YOUR CHEST!! And you think, this can’t be right. There’s just no way that all these people all over the world who have tiny infants just hold them all the time. How do they do things like eat, or bathe, or I don’t know, pee?

Truth be told, our infants as humans are born severely underdeveloped. And I mean that in the nicest way. They are literally born these premature little creatures when compared to other primate babies. This means their brains continue to develop at embryonic rates for a year after birth. Did you hear me people? Embryonic rates. Embryonic.

Why is this so, you may ask. Well it’s pretty simple. When we began to walk upright our pelvises had to change to accommodate this new modality. The pelvis became smaller and therefore the birth canal could no longer accommodate a fully formed head. Enter evolution and babies being born earlier in gestation and that means for a year after birth they’re completely not gestated. (Ok, gestated is ridiculous and I get that, but you catch my drift.)

So think of it this way – the damn thing should still be inside you. In its hot tub, floating around with food and drink on demand, being lulled to sleep by you walking around. Once we think about it – newborns like to be bounced and shushed. Remember what it sounds like in that pregnant belly from hearing it on the doppler? Member when the baby in your belly only “woke up” at night while you were laying still and not moving. TA-DA! The baby just wants back in, and can you blame it? In addition she wants to smell you. Hear your heartbeat and the sound of your voice. He wants your warmth and to know that he hasn’t been left for the wolves.

There are so many products that promise to lull your baby back to sleep for you so you don’t have to do that work. One in particular is extraordinarily expensive and will put the baby back to sleep with rocking, vibrating, and any other number of bells and whistles. I gotta say y’all, no. Just stop it. Now, there are the babies who never stop crying. Like never. And they drive the parents to tears and the edge of beyond. If that baby needs to sleep in a swing so it can stay asleep and let the poor tired mama get some much needed sleep – more power to you. The deal is, the parenting of the waking infant is not only necessary for that baby brain to continue to develop properly but it’s necessary training for the rest of parenting life.

Yes, it’s difficult with the baby up in the middle of the night. You’re exhausted and hopeless and frankly, helpless. But you have to do it. You must persevere. Because while they can develop a product to help rock a baby back to sleep I don’t think they have one yet to talk to your teenager about sex. Or one to prevent their first heartbreak or loss or to keep them from taking stupid risks and drinking at a party. Nighttime parenting is necessary parenting time. It’s necessary that you rock your baby thru the difficult nights. It’s necessary that you get up and change the diapers and attend to their needs for so many reasons.

Parenting is hard – just ask the parents of the teenagers in the High School down the street from you. It’s hard to be the parent. It’s hard to do all the things all the time. But you gotta do it, because they need you. They need you now and later and always. They need you and they’re crying out for you to tell you so. Remember, this first year you are completing the gestation of this tiny human. Remember, the baby is just a tiny helpless mammal. It needs you for literally everything, especially to make it feel safe.

But girl, let me tell you, if you need to get that damn rocker – soother thingy to keep yourself sane, get it. It’s better that than a really sad, tired, and crazy mama.

The Helicopter Parent

 

So, the Winter Olympics just wrapped up, and let me say, holy shitballs, people – those athletes are amazing. They train for their entire lives and sometimes go home champions and sometimes just go home with stories. However, if you want to see some everyday Olympic caliber amazingness, watch a parent change the sheets on a bunk bed, or wrestle a toddler into a pull-up – sorry, Shaun White – I’m just sayin’, I haven’t even had time to train for this shit, but here I am making magic happen.

A fascinating event that some parents tackle with Olympic level focus, training, and voracious dedication is Other Parent Judgment. Listening to some of these Olympians (aka parents), you’ll hear all kinds of technical terms like “Attachment Parent”, “Free-Range Parent”, “Tiger-Parent”, and my personal favorite, “Helicopter Parent” being thrown around. Our everyday Olympians are experts on these terms much as I heard Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski call out a “Triple Toe Loop” or “Double Sow Cow” (or whatever the hell it’s called) like it was nothing. Now Johnny and Tara earned their licks to be critiquing the figure skaters but the question I have for the parent-athletes is: Where does this desire to label come from? Is it ingrained in them much as the desire for a gold is etched into the being of Mikaela Shiffrin? Or does it come from somewhere else? Somewhere less admirable?

Here’s the thing – parenting is hard. It’s really hard and having other parents, or even better grandparents, or even better than that non-parents judging our every move is so not helpful.

I could go on and on about all of the parenting labels that parents put on themselves as well as are bestowed upon us by others whether deserving or not. But I won’t. I will however address the one that I have been guilty of throwing around like an insult until I came to understand it better: The Helicopter Parent.

You know what I’m talking about – the mom who follows little Jimmy all over the playground equipment making sure he’s safe. The dad who won’t let the kids ride anywhere with their grandparents because the carseats haven’t been checked by the fire station. The mama who makes sure you’ve triple washed your hands and then still asks you to use hand sanitizer one more time before holding the baby, even though it’s August and flu season was over months ago. We’ve taken comfort in labeling these parents helicopters – hovering about their little person constantly so as to protect them from every scrape, bruise, unkind word, and unpleasant smell.

However, when we take a step back, we need to realize what we’re actually witnessing is something deeper. It’s not just care and concern for the tiny person these parents are in charge of keeping alive, but it’s quite possibly, and most likely, a perinatal mood disorder called postpartum anxiety.

The mama’s too anxious to just relax and chat at the playground, not because she’s uptight, but because her brain actually won’t let her. Daddy can’t enjoy a day at the pool with the kiddos because his mind won’t stop racing to the terrible “what ifs”. Leaving the baby with a sitter can be the single most stressful moment for these parents not because they’re worried that the baby might not get a nutritious meal or to bed on time but because they’re terrified the sitter might strap the baby in the carseat and leave town. They can’t help it. Their mind won’t stop and it’s not their choice, it’s also not their fault.

Parents get to come at this lifelong Olympic event any way they want. So here’s what I suggest: as fellow parents we take a step back. As with everything in life, we have no idea what’s happening in someone else’s world. If you see a daddy hovering over his daughter all around the zoo, it’s not your place to label him. Have compassion, show him kindness, and know this parenting thing is not the same for any of us. I take solace in the fact that when I was suffering from postpartum depression I didn’t have to wear an armband to show I was not doing great. On the other had, it would have been extremely helpful if I had worn one so then people would maybe have had more compassion for me or at least more patience.

Let’s do this for one another – as a parenting community – as a tribe. Respect our fellow little-person-keeper-alivers and save the commentary for Johnny and Tara. Your fellow Olympians may be gold medalist mac-n-cheese makers while you don’t make the podium in that event, but they can’t hold a candle to you in bedtime story telling. We’re all aspiring to be the best at something (read magical bandaid application). We all have dreams, people.

Now, can we talk about Johnny’s hair?

Because I’m A Badass. That’s Why.

 

I’ll be the first to admit it, I don’t play with my kids enough. There’s always something to do. Some meal to make or room to clean, somewhere to be or conversation that has been put off and needs to be had. My answer is often, “Just a minute, baby.” “I need to just finish this one thing.” “I’ll be right there.”

And I don’t think I’m always wrong. I do have meals to make and shit to clean, because ps even though there are rules about only eating at the table – every-damn-thing is sticky! All the time! Why? How did this happen? How are you and your hands and your face and your knees always covered in some disgusting gooey substance? Someone needs to keep us from living like a bunch of frat boys, because you small people are the reason we can’t have nice things!

Then, once in a while there is time and not vacation at a resort time, but good old fashioned time to spend with them just to play. Not at Jump-til-you-barf, not at the movies or an organized activity, just to actually play. And when these moments happen, they are magic.

We had a rare moment – we were away from the world, we had no internet and cell phone access, we had feet of fresh snow, tons of sleds, and two bad-ass mamas to play with these four little kids and boy did we play! We didn’t only play with them, we played along side of them. The daddies took off for the day and the mamas were tubing, sledding, building jumps, hauling kiddos behind the snowmobiles, and laughing our butts off.

We only went inside for hot cocoa and a bite to eat – plus a quick game of Guesstures (which by the way is way more fun with two adults) before heading back out for more. More tumbles into the powder, more doubled over in laughter, more freezing fingers and toes, and more play. And when the kids were too done for more, us mamas got the daddies fresh back from the river to suit up and pull us behind the snowmobile. We wanted our turn to try and make it around the track just once! (Mostly to show the children how it’s done.) And our kids watched from the warmth of the cabin in the picture window. They watched their mamas be bad asses. Have our own fun and teach them by example how life is to be lived.

Now we’re back, and while the wind burn has vanished from our cheeks and we’re back to changing sheets and cleaning toilets, and trying to get a meal on the table that everyone will not only eat but no one makes gagging sounds during, the play will stay with all of us. In our muscle fibers, in our laughter, and hopefully the kids will remember their mamas not only as the toilet cleaners and butt wipers but as the bad ass mamas who can whip the kids around a corner while they hold on for dear life and laugh like wild banshees.

Mama life is tough. There are schedules to keep and humans to keep alive. Mamas don’t get enough time to be the “fun” ones. We have to be rules and regulations while so many others get to be the fun ones. Grandparents, auties and uncles, babysitters, and often our partner get to have all the fun. So, every once in a while with no guilt say fuck it. Get out in the snow or the sand or the grass and roll around with them. Get dirty, eat junk for lunch, let them have cookies first, and do it with abandon. You’ll thank yourself (and they’ll look at you just a little different – because who knew mama could be so WILD!?!?)