Friday, October 26, 2012

I Don't Belong In Childcare. Really.

One of my dad's favorite stories to tell people about me is this one:

After I had Ethan and Connor, I talked with him about the trouble I was having adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom and deciding what to do with my professional life. He suggested that since I was home with the boys all day, why not just run a home day care? I looked at him like the NUT JOB that he was for suggesting that and said, "Dad, I can hardly stand to be home with my OWN kids all day, NO WAY would I voluntarily be around other kids all day, too."

My dad thinks that what I said is just HILARIOUS. He has a sick sense of humor. Now you know where I get it from. 

While what he suggested made sense, he was temporarily forgetting that I am not a "kid person." I don't like to be in charge of or responsible for other kids. And while one family member once told me that I need to seek professional help for my opposition to being around children, I really don't view it as a problem. 

Except for the other day. I had to sign up to help, per the requirements "volunteered" at Connor's pre-school. First of all, I chose to sleep in instead of waking up early to shower, since I figured I was just going to be sneezed on, snotted on, slobbered on, and peed on all morning, anyway. However, I was hoping that I didn't reek of the previous night's rum, topped off with red wine, consumption.

At the school, I first was asked to supervise one of the general play areas. Right off the bat, some kid defied me when I asked him to pick up the cars he left strewn all over the pathway for me or someone else to slip and break our necks on.

Now. I know how I would have handled that situation at home. I'm a pretty no-nonsense parent. I don't screw around. 

But I was not at home, and this was not my kid. SHIT. He was staring at me, testing me, smirking and mocking in his shit-headed defiance. I was torn. I had to balance school atmosphere with my personal style. What do I do, what do I do? So, filled with self-loathing for having to be such a pussy, I asked him seven times, nicely, to pick up the cars, and he finally did. I think the psycho look that started creeping into my eyes helped him decide to stop fucking around, for his own sake. 

This is one the many reasons I hate being in the position of having to deal with other kids.

Then, I was asked to supervise in the "play-dough" room, which was especially awesome as I have a personal problem with that crap, but I figured that with seven thousand 20 or so kids running around, play-dough was going to be the least of my worries.

I was wrong.

I sat in a tiny chair that was about 6 inches off the ground, at the tiny table that the kids play at, and while dodging my knees that were wrapped around my ears, passed out the grayish-brown dough. I can't refer to it as Play-Doh, since it was clearly some kind of special homemade recipe and not the actual Play-Doh brand. It registered in the back of my mind that it was kind of slimy and left a film on my hands. As I watched 15 different kids with their snot- and self-butt-wiped-covered hands play with the same batch of dough, it started to sink in. I looked at the dough. Closely.

BIG MISTAKE. There was particle after particle of God-knows-what stuck in it. There were random hairs. There were four billion germs just festering in that crud. As the disgust settled in, I watched a kid sneeze all over his dough, then hand it to another kid and run off. I watched another kid drop his dough on the floor, accidentally step on it, pick it up, and set it back on the table. Another kid immediately swooped in and started playing with it. 

I was pretty surprised that I didn't witness any kids licking their dough. I mean, HEY, MY KIDS ARE OBSESSED WITH LICKING. Aren't everyone else's, too? I thought about the slimy film on my hands and my mind started spiraling down, down, down into the depths of bacteria-ridden play-dough hell and I had to stop myself from thinking about it any more, lest I went fucking crazy and threw all the shit in the trash can, then lit it on fire and got arrested. Instead, I got up and washed my hands for several minutes. 

I considered pointing out how disgusting the stuff was to the staff, along with asking them if they have thought about how gross it is that they've asked us to bring in empty toilet paper rolls (think about what people are doing when touching those things), and decided that I probably shouldn't let my freak flag fly at full mast and you know, for my son's sake, just let it go

As I was trying to convince myself that really, nobody was going to die from touching the dough (or the shit-infested toilet paper rolls - hey exposure to bacteria is GOOD! Builds the immune system!), one little girl told me that she was hot and she needed help taking off her long-sleeved shirt. 

No big deal, until I realized that the shirt was under her dress.

I quickly took in the circumstances. It was me, her, and another little girl in the room. Nobody else was around. All I could think about was that this little girl was basically going to get undressed in front of me and I was not about to open myself up to any, any, kind of misunderstanding. I mean, I know I'm not a creep, but does anybody else?! Kids aren't the most accurate and explicit story tellers, and I could just envision the whole situation going terribly awry, were she to go home and talk about "the lady who took off my clothes at school" or something as easily misunderstood as that. Or if someone walked in the room while I was in the middle of helping her undress. I just didn't even want to go there.

I was feeling a little panicky and told her not to do anything, hold on! as I walked to the hallway and looked for another adult to at least be a witness, and again was reminded of how much I hate being put in the position of having to deal with other kids.

I really just couldn't wait for the day to be done.

But the day took a dramatic turn for the better when my CHUNK OF BURNING LOVE showed up in the park area during recess after his swim lesson in the pool that's adjacent to the school. Maybe you've read about this baby, maybe not, but in case you haven't, Triple B is my good friend's now eight-month-old THIRTY POUND baby. You think YOUR ass is covered in dimples? 

YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS BABY. His thighs are bigger than mine. Okay, maybe not really, but I am not shitting you, it's close.


Just being able to pinch his dimple-ridden butt cheeks made my day. (I swear, I'm really not a pervert, I just love babies. Not kids, babies.) Oh, and it was great seeing his mom, too. And then it was time to go back inside and spend the final minutes sitting on the floor, reading to a small group of kids that crawled all over my lap, stepping on and elbowing and kneeing me and spitting in my face while excitedly talking, but hey, it was fine because my own kids do that to me all the time and especially because THEN THE DAY WAS OVER.

I honestly am doing myself, and kids, a favor by steering clear of childcare.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Random Mom Thoughts - While At The Park

Here's another installment of Random Mom Thoughts. 

I really, really don't like parks but find them to be necessary evils. How many of you have similar thoughts while at the park? 

- How many piles of dog shit are laying around for my kids to step in?

- Is that kid being murdered or does it just SOUND like it?

- Hi there, little fella. Could ya stop staring at me while you're obviously filling your diaper? Kinda creepy. Go stare at your own mom, okay, stinky cheeks?

- Hey, son, you look the exact same going down the slide as you did 327 times ago. I swear on all that is holy, I DON'T NEED TO WATCH YOU AGAIN.

- Here's to hoping the boys won't make me have to take them into the disgusting restroom here, but knowing that one of them probably will.

- WHY is that random GUY just SITTING IN HIS CAR in the parking lot?

- Oh my God, my ears. MY EARS.

- Does every adult find parks to be as mind-numbingly boring as I do? Most? Half? Ten percent?

- Shit. Here comes a mom. Time for "Ninety Questions" - the answers not being anything either of us actually gives a shit about.

- I don't understand myself. I am dying for adult interaction, yet I dread it when someone actually talks to me. Well, I really dislike glib small talk. The stupid "How are you" nonsense is the worst, especially when I'm calling customer service. SHUT THE FUCK UP and just let me get this billing crap over with, please! I've been on hold for nineteen minutes to clear up your company's error, DON'T ASK ME HOW I'M DOING! YOU DON'T CARE! WE BOTH KNOW THAT! GAAAHH! 

- Jesus, parks can really work me up.

- Oh, look. That baby is chewing on a cigarette butt. Heeeyy... mom of baby... look at your kid... theeere ya go.

- I probably dread social interaction because I usually say really weird or totally inappropriate stuff. I mean, I only talk to kids all day long...

- Shit. OF COURSE my son has to take a dump right now.

- Don't guys realize that THEY SHOULDN'T SIT AT A KIDDIE PARK ALONE? Don't they realize it's CREEPY? Obviously not.

- I can't wait to just go home.

- Really, Brandon? You just put a dandelion in your MOUTH. What in hell possessed you to do that? And guys say they can't figure out women. What about kids? Who has figured out kids?

- I wonder: Are we going to pick up the flu virus, hand-foot-mouth disease, or just the routine cold from here?

- Kids are the Eighth Wonder of The World. Hmm. What are the other seven? Stonehenge, I think. Atlantis? Pyramids? How about periods. Ha. 

- Well, this is embarrassing. My kid can now run faster than me. I'll try to save face by blaming it on my flip flops. 

- I'm also out of breath. I'm definitely blaming my flip flops for why I can't chase them any more. Can't be gasping for breath when telling them why, though... dead giveaway.

- Should I call the cops on this random guy who obviously is not here with a child? WHAT is he doing here? Well, it IS a public place. I guess he has every right to be here. But what if he's a 290 reg (registered sex offender here in California)? Ugh. Just go away, dude.

I wonder how many slivers the boys will get from this bark dust. I love slivers.

- This mom is actually pretty cool. Glad she started talking to me. But I'm totally conflicted... she's very, very obviously pregnant, like, about to POP. But I'm still scared to ask her when she's due. WHAT IF SHE'S NOT PREGNANT? But am I rude to not ask her when it's literally right in front of my face? What do I do, what do I do? Why doesn't she just casually mention it or something? THIS IS WHY I hate talking to people.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Postpartum Hormones Work In Crazy, Mysterious Ways

I wasn't sure how to title this post, because a few things could work: "What Nobody Tells You About Postpartum Recovery" or "Way #9734 That Motherhood Has Changed Me" or "Crazy Shit That Happens In Motherhood."

I decided on being broadly specific. Because that just made so much sense. Anyway. On with it. Here's a big secret: Postpartum hormones can really, really fuck you up. And with that, here's another (not anymore) secret about me: I went through some weird stuff postpartum and it changed me forever. 

Immediately after my first child was born, I was flooded with all of the feel-good hormones. I was, in spite of my nipples having turned into ground beef, quite happy with my little Ethan, and my hospital stay was the best thing ever... stay in bed all day and have people bring you food? Hold your tiny sleeping baby all day without having to worry about doing anything else? SIGN ME UP. 

Then, upon returning home from the hospital, I experienced a strange emotional upheaval. Overall, I was still really happy, but then I'd be feeding my little baby and would suddenly, with startling clarity, think about the fact that there were babies just like him going hungry at that exact moment. Watching him eat, thinking about the suffering, hungry babies in the world who were crying for food right thenI would be filled with a piercing, agonizing, grief-filled pain for those babies. My emotional upset was so incredible that it manifested as physical pain, squeezing my chest, my heart, and restricting my breathing. 

I would start sobbing, absolutely gripped with grief, helplessness, and anger. As if that wasn't enough, the same thing would happen while changing his diaper; I'd think of the babies and children who were being molested right then. I'd think of their fear, of their pain, of their broken psyches and lost innocence, and thought I would lose my mind over the crushing devastation I felt for them.

Or when Ethan cried, I would pick him up and comfort him and think about some neglected baby in the world who was crying right then, because he was cold or in pain or hungry or just needing somebody, and nobody was coming to help him. The thoughts came against my will, and once there I could not stop my brain from plunging, in exacting detail, into the depths of the horrors that babies and children everywhere face. 

And I would cry and cry, absolutely crippled with pain. I couldn't help it, I couldn't stop it, it was completely out of my control. It was baffling. It was agonizing. It was some of the worst emotional pain I have ever felt in my life. The pain was almost unbearable.

I wondered if this was who I was going to be forever, an extremely sensitive person who cried all the time and was tortured at the knowledge of babies suffering, but I suspected and especially hoped that it was the hormones and would eventually go away, because the grief was too much to take and I needed it to stop, before I broke

Anybody who has delivered a child knows how powerful those postpartum hormones can be. I was consumed with these thoughts for over two weeks postpartum, consumed with the gripping, torturing realization of the vulnerability of children, of the horrors inflicted on them. I  tried (but didn't always succeed) to hide the episodes from Nate because I don't like to cry in front of anybody, not even him.

After the first few weeks, I still had the episodes but they came less frequently and with lessening intensity until finally, my grief, rage, and sadness at children's suffering became something I could think about and still feel striking pain over, but the thoughts did not cripple me or reduce me to a sobbing, hot mess. However, I did not emerge from the episodes unscathed. It is impossible to endure something that powerful and walk away from it unchanged. My level of consciousness had been heightened, forever. The pain that I felt from my acute awareness of the suffering of children had become a huge part of me.


Looking at my baby, looking around his room, I started thinking about what I could do to help. Sometimes, at the store, I would buy an extra tube of diaper rash cream and pack of diapers or extra baby food and take them to a family center or shelter, along with baby things that we didn't need. I knew it wasn't a lot, but we're not wealthy and at least it was something. It was comforting to know that at least for one day, a baby was going to have clean diapers, some warm clothes, and a full belly. 

Then we had Connor, and then Brandon. I experienced the exact same thing for a couple of weeks after coming home from the hospital with each of them; the emotional upheaval was renewed. At least I knew it was eventually going to wane and so I was able to let it ride. Since then, money is tighter, time is tighter, and I'm not able to do the little things as much as before, not that it was a whole lot before. I have to force myself not to think very much about the hungry babies out there, because I have my own babies to feed, and I can only do so much. 

But it doesn't feel very good to turn a blind eye. 

We live in a "beach bum" town, emphasis on the "bum." There is a high adult homeless population. Panhandling is something seen pretty much every day, and I have become inured to it and tend to ignore the panhandlers. I would go broke if I gave any money every time I was asked, and I especially don't trust that they would use the money to eat.

And they almost never have kids with them.

Plus, Nate always warns me that to open my wallet up in front of people opens me up to be robbed. So after 11 years of living here, I have come to naturally and automatically deny the panhandlers when they ask for money. Besides, I usually (like the rest of the world now) hardly ever have any cash on me, anyway.

Last year, when Brandon was about a year old, I was walking out of Toys 'R Us when a scraggly, dirty man approached me and said they were stranded and needed gas money to get the rest of the way home. I gave him my automatic (and true that time) response of "Sorry, don't have any money on me" and walked to the car. As I was pulling out of my parking spot, I caught a glimpse of the man standing against the building with a woman and small child in a stroller. Something gripped me as I was driving away and it wasn't until I was on the highway heading home that I realized what was bugging me. 

They had a child. They were down and out, and that baby might have been hungry, or in need of a fresh diaper. I mean, if they couldn't afford gas to get home (assuming that was the real story - I don't trust panhandlers, even ones with kids) were they able to feed that child? I started thinking about the things I had in the car with me that I could have asked if they needed for their child; extra diapers, wipes, a sweatshirt, some food. I could have gone to the gas station down the street and bought a gas card for them.

The farther away I drove, the more my feelings of devastation grew. I could have helped a baby that was right in front of me, and I didn't. I beat myself up on that drive, telling myself that I needed to be a quicker thinker, that I should have been quicker about recognizing the situation, that I should have acted on it as soon as I saw the baby. The fact that the baby was not my responsibility didn't matter. The pain that I had felt in my postpartum days was pushing into me. I was mad at myself. I almost turned around but I needed to get home for whatever reason and couldn't take the time to turn around. It haunted me for weeks that I missed an opportunity to make sure a child wasn't going to be hungry or cold, even if for just that day. And I vowed that I would not miss that chance if it was put right in my face again.

I wanted another chance put in my face. 

A month later, I was leaving the grocery store. A woman approached me in the parking lot and asked for money. As I began to give her my automatic response, she added that she just got into town and only wanted to get a campsite so her kids would have somewhere safe to sleep for the night, instead of spending another night living in the car.

That stopped me in my tracks. I said, "You have kids? Send them over here. I have no cash but I have food I can give them so at least they're not hungry." A minute later, a couple of small boys came running over and I handed them several things from my bags, enough for a couple of meals. They were happy to have food and it was wrenching to see their happiness at just being able to eat.

It's painful seeing kids going without the basics, it's painful knowing that it is happening everywhere in the world, every minute of every day. While not at the depth it was postpartum, it's still so painful.

Those postpartum episodes were agonizing (I know, nothing compared to what the kids I'm hurting for deal with on a daily basis) but I'm glad they happened. I'm glad that I was branded with this compassion and awareness, so that here and there, I can be cognizant of opportunities to help. 

And especially, so that I can be encouraged, motivated, angered into finding bigger and better ways to help.

I'm also glad because it helps me remember perspective and gratitude, so easily forgotten in the chaos of life. Every once in a while, I will stop and just watch my boys eat for a few moments, and I can temporarily let go of my parental frustrations and feel this infusion of bone-deep gratitude that they have enough to eat, that they are not going hungry, that I do not have to listen to them cry out of days-old hunger and feel the crushing pain and helplessness from having nothing to feed them. 

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Little Terror In The Night

When you look at pictures like this, do you relate to them?

I certainly relate, have since I was a kid. Growing up with the desert-like hot Oregon summers, where it didn't "cool down" to eighty degrees until about one in the morning, when sleeping I still had to be completely covered by at least a sheet. No matter how hot and uncomfortable I was, ALL BODY PARTS up to my neck had to be covered. 

It wasn't until I got married and had someone sleeping next to me to protect me from the imaginary real monsters that I began to relax a tiny bit, just a tiny bit, about my "keep all extremities under the blankets and AWAY FROM THE EDGES while sleeping" neurosis rational thought.

We're having kind of a hot spell here in California right now. "Indian Summer" my ass. It's straight-up summer, in the middle of October. So in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, I vaguely registered that my right foot had not only slipped out from under the covers, but was also right on the edge of the bed. Of course, it crossed my mind that now the monsters could get it, but in my grown-up state, with my sword-wielding defender snoring away right next to me, I went back to sleep without worrying about it.

I will never do that again.

However long it was later (hard to keep track of time while sleeping), I was jolted awake by a single claw scraping along the bottom of my foot.

Before I even opened my eyes, I had sucked half of my face down my throat in my absolutely terror-filled gasp

Choking on my tongue, I opened my eyes and looked to my right.

There was something STANDING NEXT TO MY BED.

People. I am not a screamer. I'm not even sure I know how to scream. But I was opening my mouth to let out the biggest, most scared out of my mind, "ALL OF MY CHILDHOOD FEARS HAVE COME TRUE AND I'M ABOUT TO DIE AT THE CLAW-LIKE HANDS OF AN ACTUAL BOOGEYMAN BECAUSE I LEFT MY FOOT UNCOVERED HOLY SHIT THIS REALLY HAPPENS" scream when...

I realized that it was Connor standing next to my bed.

That kid is lucky I didn't stab him in the throat. Instead of screaming, I think I gasped out his name, and maybe definitely an expletive, in a terror-strangled voice, and then somehow had the presence of mind to move over and let him into bed (funnily enough, HE was scared; that's why he came into our bed). 

My entire body was shaking and my heart was thumping out of my chest. I'm surprised I didn't literally shit my pants.

I don't know what in hell possessed him to actually drag his fingernail down the bottom of my foot as he walked up to the bed, but he did and he took at least five years off of my life from that single action. 

I laid there for about a half an hour before calming down enough to fall back to sleep. I'm surprised that I did fall back to sleep.

I don't care if it's 150 degrees out, I will never sleep with a single body part (below my neck) exposed ever again.

Ever ever ever.

*And if you smirked or giggled at "I am not a screamer" then I'm proud of you. =D

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Random Mom Thoughts - While Out On A Walk

I'm beginning another series: Random Mom Thoughts. Like my other series, I'll randomly add posts here and there over time. 

To clarify, I'm not saying that every mom/parent has these thoughts. In fact, as you'll see over time, I hope most moms don't. I'm a bit weird. So anyway, these are my thoughts, as a mom and a generally strange person.

- Is that a dirt clod or dried-up cat turd that my son picked up and is playing with?

- I hope there aren't any hypodermic needles in that pile of leaves I just told them to play in.

- I cannot believe this kid just told me that his legs are tired, after two damn blocks, when he's capable of running like a maniac around the house for an hour or longer?

- Wow. It's a lot harder to keep small kids from running into oncoming traffic than one might think.

- Keep flying, bird, keeeep flying. This is a shit-free zone, mother fucker.

- Why are cigarette butts so attractive to kids? WHY?

Will it be vodka or rum tonight?

- Is that the second time that dude has slooowly driven past us? KEEP DRIVING, PEDOPHILE! 

- Why do I think that everyone is a pedophile?

- Is that kid by the bus stop picking his nose? Ugh. He's probably sick, and I'm sure he's going to wipe his booger on the bench and my kids are going to run by and probably decide to lick the bench, right where he wiped his booger.

- I hope they don't get toxoplasmosis if that was a cat turd.

- Haven't I answered that exact same question 178 times already today, son? THE ANSWER WILL NOT CHANGE NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU ASK! GAAAHHH!

- That kid just ate his booger. Mine do that. CAN KIDS BE ANY GROSSER? At least now my kids won't be licking it off the bench.

Why can't people keep their foliage and other shit OFF the sidewalk path? Trim your bush, people! Ha. Gross.

- I think it'll be rum tonight.

- That cat just ate its own vomit. I'm not sure which is grosser: Kids or cats? Hmm. Toss up.

- Will I know if they get toxoplasmosis? What is toxoplasmosis, beside something pregnant chicks have to worry about being in cat shit? Google that later. Ha. Who I am kidding; I won't remember.

- If this kid was walking any slower, he'd be at a complete stand still. Hurry the fuck UP, kid!

- Wine sounds good, actually.

- Brandon's diaper needs to be changed. Heehee, how can he walk with that thing sagging down to his knees like that? When was his diaper last changed? OOOOHHH... Jesus, get it together, mom!

- What a fun walk.

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